Breaking back: a review of 2013 gay films

Overall, 2013 was a good year for gay film. From Soderbergh's swan song to books-turned-movies to a change of tempo for more renowned directors, the past year saw peaks and heights and presented the world with handful of films to watch.

First, my favorite gay film of the year. I have to hand it down to Michael Mayer's middle-eastern drama Out in the Dark. Palestinian psychology student meets Israeli lawyer; typical boy meets boy right? No. With the current Israel-Palestinian conflict as its center, the film's appreciation of love amidst societal prejudice made Out in the Dark a compelling drama. 

Now, to the drill.

The year opened with Soderbergh's Behind the Candelabra. The award-winning made-for-television film tackled the life of famed Liberace; and with an all star cast lead by Douglas and Damon, the film was a worthy end to Soderbergh's lustrous career. With a great opener, the year was on firre.

The big three film festivals, as usual, gave mostly ground-breaking and more familiar avenues for the cinephiles. Cannes gave its highest honor to Kechiche's Blue is the Warmest Color. Yes, this may be a cheat since it is a lesbian film, but Blue is one of the best movies of last year. You have to stand 30 minutes of gratuitous girl-on-girl sex scene, but the emotional turmoil of identity confusion and heartache was easily universal. The other lauded feature was Guiraudie's Stranger by the Lake. Combining early remnants of the pure cinema movement and Hitchcockian psychology, the movie may be a test for those unfamiliar with the genre, but the result was a satisfying and perplexing mystery thriller. Berlin and Venice produced Szumowka's In the Name of and Kyu-Hwan's The Weight, respectively. I still have not seen both films but the general consensus has been favorable so far.

Independent film festivals also did not disappoint. Sundance showed Krokidas' Kill Your Darlings, one of the most anticipated film of the year. With Daniel Radcliffe as beat generation founder Allen Ginsberg, the film surrounding the murder by Lucien Carr was easily one of the audience's favorite this year. Interior: Leather Bar was James Franco's take on the missing clip of the 1980 ground breaking film, Cruising. Copolla's The Bling Ring, which started in Cannes, went on a well deserved film festival spree. Una NochePit Stop and Snails in the Rain also made some buzz from film festivals all across the globe. 

Though no Weekend(the best gay romantic film ever made), romance was also in the air. Lacant's Free Fall about a married policeman who found himself attracted to a man, was dubbed as Germany's answer to Lee's Brokeback Mountain. Though not as brilliant as the latter, Free Fall stood on its own as a tale of isolation and prejudice with a common yet engrossing relationship on its stand. This is the same premise of Wasilewski's Floating Skyscrapers, except in this one, the girl clung on the swimmer guy. Berger's Hawaii is one for the hopeless romantic.The Argentinian film was about two childhood friends who met again after many years and the rekindling that came thereafter. Fox's follow-up to Yossi and Jagger, Yossi, followed the titular protagonist years after the ending of the former film, coping with love lost and search for one in this age.

Gay in film cannot be discussed without mentioning Pedro Almodovar. In 2013, he gave us the funny, raunchy and fabulous I'm So Excited. For a fan of his works, his latest was a break from his usual dark and dramatic pieces. The flight attendants may just be a classic in Almodovar filmography.

One of the better emerging director (probably the hottest, too), Xavier Dolan went for double this year. Laurence Anyways was given a worldwide release establishing Dolan's name as a force with his two other films, I Killed My Mother and Heartbeats, on his back. His epic-length third feature film tackled a man on his way into becoming a transgendered woman. The other film, expected to have mainstream distribution this year, Tom at the Farm, will be Dolan's first venture into the psychological thriller and for a fan, I couldn't be more excited.

2013 also saw popular books turned into films. David Sedaris, one of the best essayist of today, had one of his essay turn to the silver screen. Alvarez' COG was adapted from Sedaris' experience when he worked in an apple orchard. Out actor Jonathan Groff was brilliant. Hartinger's Geography Club became Entin's in the cinemas. 

Unfortunately, 2013 saw the dearth of Asian queer films. A few years back, a lot of independent filmmakers in Thailand, South Korea and Taiwan pushed for more active worldwide release of films, showing a different perspective of gay culture. Now, except for The Weight, the only East Asian movie that made buzz was Chen's Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow, which is not even a good film in my books.

Since we are talking about the negatives, let me say the bad films did not disappoint. Though I tend to stray from critically panned films, usually ignoring tla releases, I managed to squeeze a few, in case I disagree (note: The Rocky Horror Picture Show, now a classic, was then a lambasted film in the 70s). Porn actor Sean Lockhart's Triple Crossed, much like his previous attempts and contra his great performance in porn, was lazy and pathetic. Galea's Monster Pie and Orlean's Capitol Games seemed like a fan-made fictions taken from an internet forum. Evan's The Happy Sad was trite. I was ambiguous towards LeMay's Naked As We Came.

Queer scene in this country became visible, I will hand that positively. Vice Ganda on the peak of her career, the popularity of My Husband's Lover and probably an attempt to attract a new market, bigwigs produced several gay-oriented films. Now, I am not saying the films were good, because they are not. Girl Boy Bakla Tomboy and Bromance: My Brother's Romance, both by the Wenn Deramas (whose name is synonymous to garbage in my dictionary), were an attempt to milk out more cash, as with Tom Rodriguez's Gaydar. Low-budget, machine acted, and cheap films still continued to play in cinemas in Quiapo and Cubao. But on a bigger picture, I think it was good that there was more visibility. Don't get me wrong; I bet there are good films. Cinema One's 2013 winner, Bukas na lang sapagkat gabi na echoed more of Thailand's Weerasethakul's revolutionary plot, including homosexual practices in communist groups. There are possibly still more films there, but my interest in Filipino films this year has admittedly dwindled for valid reasons, so spare me any elitist comment. 

I still have a few films to watch. Vallee's Dallas Buyers Club, with all its Oscars Buzz, is still waiting release here in the Philippines. Plus, 2014 is here with a lot of prospects from the biopic of Alan Turing to Ira Sach's return to Sundance to HBO's adaptation of Larry Kramer's play The Normal Heart. So here's to another year! Cheers!

*Titles are linked to youtube trailers
** Writing this entry is like a breathe of fresh air for this blog. Haha.


  1. Ang dami mong napanood this year! I think of all the films you cited, I only saw Behind the Candelabra and Bling Ring.

    One film you might have missed out on was Cinema One's Shift! Medyo fail yung casting nila sa anak ni Bembol but the story and this particular scene in front of a convenience story were splendid!

    Manigong Bagong Taon, somelostboy! :)

    1. I was only able to catch one! Haha. There's actually still another, Slumber Party:) Happy new year!

  2. I don't really get to watch a lot of gay films tbh. Guess I should start downloading once my schedule clears up. Hehe. But I'm looking forward to Yves Saint Laurent though-a documentary, but he's gay so I think that counts.

  3. How do you find out about all those movies? I guess Im gonna have to arrange a movie night with my love soon to watch all those haha :)

  4. I saw I'm so Excited. It was a raucous.

    1. Really? I really found its queerness campy, and I love it. Haha