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Influenced by Queer Culture: 10 Great Films to watch this Pride Month

Influenced by Queer Culture: 10 Great Films to watch this Pride Month

From the beginnings of films in the world of theater, queer culture has always been present and highly influential—though not explicitly recognized most of the time. Fast forward to today’s time, its presence is still being overlooked by the majority. By not acknowledging the impact of the culture and queer people on cinema is to undervalue the very art form itself.

Influenced by Queer Culture: 10 Great Films to watch this Pride Month

In honor of this year’s Pride, here are ten films that explore, showcase, and celebrate the power of queer culture in the world of cinema.

1. Shirley Clarke’s “Portrait of Jason” (1967)

A fascinating film documentary about a more fascinating individual. Clarke acts as a director—and even a psychologist—as she reveals every layer of her subject’s life and persona. 

One evening at the Chelsea Hotel in New York City, hustler and cabaret performer aspirant Jason Holliday expresses on camera his many philosophies as a black gay man. Portrait of Jason brings the humor, the sadness, the confidence, and most especially, the reality of such a compelling figure.

2. Pier Paolo Pasolini’s “Teorema” (1968)

Pasolini recruits Terence Stamp as a stranger—who can also be viewed as an undercover pansexual deity—mysteriously entering into the lives of a bourgeois household crippled with their own inner emptiness. He seduces everyone one by one and then soon after vanishes, leaving them in existential disarray. 

Ironic to its own title, Teorema leaves as many questions as with its statements to the viewer about its many cryptic allegories. But no matter how it is interpreted, the film stands as a beaming beacon of enlightenment and liberation for anyone feeling lost in their own personal desolation. 

3. Federico Fellini’s “Fellini – Satyricon” (1969)

The late Maestro once declared that he was going to create the greatest homosexual movie ever made. The result was his own, very loose, and visually lavish take on Petronius’ Roman novel with the same name. 

At the core of Satyricon is a celebration of the many facets of sex and gender. All seen from the journey of a pansexual man traversing in a world that is so open to it all. 

4. Toshio Matsumoto’s “Funeral Parade of Roses” (1969)

A modern reinterpretation of the Greek tale Oedipus Rex, Matsumoto goes into an in-depth exploration of gender identity and politics. All were staged in Japan’s queer subculture during the 1960s.

Popular trans sex worker Eddie showcases the masked realities of queer people of the time in heavy presentations. With these themes along with its avant-garde approach, Funeral Parade of Roses stands as an ahead-of-its-time film. It compels the viewer to strive for a much deeper understanding of one’s self and identity.

5. Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s “The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant” (1972)

The German film director and provocateur creates his all-female cast masterpiece. He captures the beauty and fabulousness of tortured love and all its toxicities.

The S&M affair of a prolific but imperious fashion designer and her assistant is tested when the former falls in love with a model. It encapsulates misery and torment in one space that soon becomes a claustrophobic mind maze throughout the film. The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant is an explosive portrayal of love with hatred that is devastatingly true and real.

6. John Waters’ “Pink Flamingos” (1972)

From the twisted mind of the ‘King of Filth’ himself, Waters spews out every taboo imaginable in his most infamous film. Hopefully, the audience has the stomach not to do the same with what they just ate when watching it. 

Introducing the “Filthiest Person Alive”, drag legend and icon Divine wreaks havoc in both the most graceful and disgusting ways possible. Pink Flamingos either captivate or horrifies audiences. But the film also endures, especially in the LGBTQ+ community. Its ground-breaking representation of queer culture and its many facets is truly cherished even today.

7. Jennie Livingston’s “Paris Is Burning” (1990)

An important film documentary in queer culture, Livingston presents the beauty of the drag & ballroom scene in 1980s New York City in all its vibrancy. But also, sheds much-needed light on the difficulties queer people experience daily from a resistantly illiberal society. 

An essential film and piece of history to the LGBTQ+ community, Paris Is Burning and its message of love and courage—thanks to its stellar cast of queer legends—still grips the hearts and the minds of audiences, especially queer people, even after all these years. 

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8. Wong Kar Wai’s Happy Together (1997)

A revolutionary film in Hong Kong cinema and the industry itself. WKW presents a warm yet toxic relationship between two gay lovers, miles away from their home country. No political critiques and social commentaries—just a sensational story about love and its many textures. 

Starring muse Tony Leung and the late queer icon Leslie Cheung, they push and pull from love throughout the film. Showcased with evocative visuals (thanks to Christopher Doyle), Happy Together is achingly bittersweet, but leaves audiences more enlightened about love—and even more courageous to feel it.

9. David Lynch’s “Mulholland Drive” (2001)

Seen as one of the best lesbian films in recent memory. The elusive filmmaker and genius conjures up an erotic story of love and tragedy in the show-business capital of the world—Hollywood. 

On a surface level, Mulholland Drive is centered around the intense love and desire between Lynch’s two leading women. Though at its most definitive, the film explains everything but also nothing at all about the mysteries of their lives because it is all simply a dream. And just like real dreams, its fragmentation can never be fully explained. But at the same time, it can still be felt—just like, well, love. 

10. Isabel Sandoval’s “Lingua Franca” (2019)

The reigning ‘Queen of Sensual Cinema’, Sandoval writes, directs, edits, co-produces, and acts in her elusively dream-like melodrama. The Filipino icon presents the struggles of undocumented immigrants as well as the discrimination of trans people in modern-day America.

An undocumented Filipino trans woman tirelessly works as a caregiver for an elderly woman to pay for an arranged marriage and attain her green card. At the same household where she works and lives, she meets the woman’s grandson whom she soon gets into a deeply passionate affair. Lingua Franca is sexy, political, and heart-wrenching—packed beautifully by Sandoval and her signature touch of sensibility. 

The profound power of queerness in cinema

The influence of queer culture on cinema must never be understated and underappreciated. The culture itself and the LGBTQ+ community all provide rich and beautiful complexities to films, while still being familiar to audiences. And the driving force for the massive impact of queerness to the art form? Love.

Happy Pride! Now go watch these amazingly beautiful films!

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