For the second day of Pride I once again am using the Criterion Channel’s LGBT section, and I assume that will be a common sentiment as making it through most of those films seems like a good goal for the month. I will make sure to sneak some more mainstream queer films in throughout the month as well though, especially after tonight’s viewing.
Pink Narcissus (1971, Dir. James Bidgood)
When picking films to watch, I frequently go out of my way to watch films as blindly as possible. I mention that because while I did not know what Pink Narcissus was, I would never have guessed what my following hour would be. The only film James Bidgood ever made is part cinematic ballet and part erotic gay fantasy. The film contains no dialogue or traditional story and is instead filled with suggestive and graphic imagery for the entirety of the film’s runtime.
While the film has some variation in setting, the circular thrusting and gentle caressing are constant images which create a hypnotizing affect. The viewer becomes entranced by the camp of the costumes and sets. Especially given the era (it was released two years after the Stonewall riots but began production six years prior) this fullhearted embrace of queer imagery is a cultural touchstone.
I have a bonus film for tonight as well. Every Wednesday a Discord server I belong to has a movie night, and for the first time in a while it was a film that was new to me.
Rebecca (2020, Dir. Ben Wheatley)
I am not going to lie; I went into this film assuming I would hate it. At least until I noticed that it was directed by Ben Wheatley which gave me some hope even if he was attempting a remake of one of Hitchcock’s great films. The film ends up being fine. It is better than a remake of Rebecca has any right to be, but it is also the weakest offering I have watched from Wheatley. The most damning appraisal of this remake is where it succeeds and where it fails. The middle hour of the film is almost an exact remake of the 1940 classic and is excellent. During this part of the film, I on more than one occasion told myself that if this were the story’s first adaptation, I would find it excellent. Unfortunately, the book ending half hours of original material feel at odds with the parts that work. A backstory is introduced for little reason, and the new ending forgoes much of the mystery for melodrama. This mix in quality of parts dooms this remake to be lost to time. The best parts are done better by Hitchcock and the original pieces are lacking in quality.
The one thing that this remake arguably does better than the original is the character of Miss (Mrs. in the remake) Danvers. Judith Anderson is excellent in the original as the conniving head maid, but Kirstin Scott Thomas elevates the role to something special. Thomas makes an exquisite villain – especially a villain under a veneer of pleasantness – and is in conjunction with the middle hour the reason to watch the film.