WHEN WE WERE VERY YOUNG: EARLY FILMS FROM THE QUEER AVANT-GARDE Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Caught up in the debate about gay marriage or the Oscar-worthiness of Brokeback Mountain, it's easy to forget that queer rights - and artists - have come a long way. That's what makes the Pleasure Dome's look into the vault of early experimental gay and lesbian shorts so intriguing.
The works span four decades, from the mid-1940s to the late 80s. They were often made by emerging artists, some unaware of their budding sexual orientation.
Easily the most fascinating is Kenneth Anger's Fireworks, a 15-minute film made in 1947, when the artist was just 17. Jean Cocteau's dreamlike works were obviously an influence, and it's no surprise that Cocteau himself later expressed admiration for Fireworks.
A sleeping young man wakes up to manoeuvre his way through an erotic landscape that includes sailors, cigarettes and public washrooms. The situation in which he finds himself isn't the romanticized ideal in imagined photographs, but, rather, a dangerous, sadomasochistic game that ends with his face being splattered with various fluids.
It's a still-powerful film, remarkable not only for its psychologically penetrating imagery but also for its campy humour, especially in the crackling appearance of the title's fireworks.
Also included on the program are shorts by some of Canada's strongest queer filmmakers, such as Mike Hoolboom, Midi Onodera and wrik mead.
Mead's brief Jesus Saves juxtaposes a man's religious confession - delivered in slow-mo - with the image of a chopped-up pig. Spooky and disturbing, yes, but also full of mead's characteristic wry humour. (Cinecycle, January 28)