When xanax and white wine mix:
THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS
Director: Jonathan Demme
Stars: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Scott Glenn
Misguided and counterproductive gay activists (is there any other kind?) who purport to love movies but seem to be perpetually aggravated by the cinema and know nothing about it set upon The Silence of the Lambs and made fools out of themselves as usual simplifying and misinterpreting certain elements of this flawless masterpiece.
When they insisted that Jodie Foster had to be a lesbian and that her character in this film, Clarice Starling, was probably gay too, they were diving headfirst without looking into a shallow pool of old-fashioned sexist ideas that if a woman was independent, tough and at loggerheads with the patriarchy, then her sexuality was in question, as she wasn’t behaving like a good woman should. As a letter writer to the Village Voice pointed out, “under the guise of promoting gay consciousness, they’re falling back on the same reliable weapon that men have used for centuries against women who claim a little too much for themselves – they’re calling her a dyke.”
When they expressed outrage that gay stereotypes had been attached to the film’s psycho killer, Buffalo Bill, they miss the film’s quite obvious point – something that is stated through action, theme, and even dialogue (“Billy [only] thinks he’s a transsexual”) – that the killer is struggling, just as Clarice is, to find some kind of stable identity in a world of strict, sometimes unfair and unrealistic, gender roles, a struggle which gay activists should have perhaps applauded, or at least related to. As Judith Halberstam noted, “Buffalo Bill could be another victim of the heterosexist culture which believes that anatomy is destiny.”
Furthermore, sulking at the side lines while eager moviegoers lined up around the block to see this film or Basic Instinct, they shot themselves in the foot with gusto as they isolated themselves from the cultural mood of the times by objecting to blockbuster movies about non-straight antiheroes that everyone else loved. They may have been better to have nailed their colours to the mast of Hannibal Lecter, the film’s other fey killer, a sophisticated villain of ambiguous sexuality who continues to enjoy Darth Vader level popularity with audiences of all stripes.
Anyway, Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) is an ambitious FBI trainee sent to the dungeon cell of Dr. Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) to collect any information Lecter may have on “Buffalo Bill”, an elusive serial killer who “skins his humps”. Hoping to advance her career and put her own demons to rest, Clarice embarks on a fascinating quasi-romantic relationship with Dr. Lecter, who in turn revels in turning Clarice’s brittle psyche every which way but loose. Clarice also battles her superior, Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn), and, eventually, “Buffalo Bill” himself, Jame Gumb (Ted Levine) in a thrilling pre-finale.
The incomparable Quentin Crisp (1908-1999) shared a birthday with Jesus and was played by John Hurt in 1975’s The Naked Civil Servant, adapted from Crisp’s memoir of the same name.
The Queen of interwar Old Compton Street, he starred with Helen Mirren, among others, on the London stage before moving to the United States where his dinner parties became legendary. He played Queen Elizabeth I opposite Tilda Swinton in 1992’s Orlando and appeared as a party guest in a scene of the same year’s Philadelphia.
Imperiously disparaging about everything from AIDS (”a fad”) to Princess Diana (”vulgar”), he wrote a classic series of film reviews for Christopher Street magazine,some of which are republished here on Outrate. For more information, please visit the Quentin Crisp website, or read the anthology of Quentin Crisp film reviews, “How To Go To The Movies”, from which this essay on Greta Garbo is drawn.
Miss Garbo had eye lids like rolltop desks.
According to the boring minimum standards imposed upon us by the Greeks, this would not have made her beautiful, but the moguls of the late silent films and the early talkies did not worry. She possessed a quality more subtle than beauty; she had glamour — the mysterious glow that warns the beholder that although she appears to be offered, not all is likely to be given.
Billy Hayes spent most of the seventies in a Turkish prison after trying to smuggle hash out of the country. His experiences were made into the film Midnight Express, which starred the late Brad Davis, and he is now a happily married film maker living and working in LA.
His 2002 directorial debut was with the film Cock and Bull Story, a violent but earnest tale about a sexually confused boxer and his friendship with a guy from the wrong side of the tracks.
Billy spoke with Mark Adnum in March 2003.
MARK ADNUM: Billy, my first love was Brad Davis as yourself in the 1976 film Midnight Express. It’s a performance that’s had an impact on a lot of people. What response have you had to it, at the time of the film’s release, and over time in the almost thirty year’s since?
BILLY HAYES: I loved what Brad did because his heart was into it. He touched people, like yourself, for example, and that’s what I still want to do—affect people and change the world in whatever small or large way I can.
MA: Most people, when they think of “Billy Hayes”, imagine Davis, the sexily suicidal movie star who doesn’t resemble you physically or otherwise. Apart from your book, your profile is limited, and the film didn’t stay true to all the facts you detailed in your memoir. What’s it like to have a partly-fictionalised reputation, personified by someone else?
BH: My reputation, like all of us, is a Rashomon-like portrait. All I can do is try and stay true to my heart, which guides me. The fictionalized part is due to the film’s liberties, the book’s inability to say everything I wanted, although it’s a fairly accurate rendition of who I am, or rather, who I was. Hopefully one is constantly growing and changing…
William Friedkin’s misunderstood Cruising was actually based on the real-life “bag murders”, where dismembered parts of missing gay men washed up on the shores of the Hudson River in sealed black garbage bags.
Uncanny coincidence corner: Paul Bateson, who had worked with Friedkin on the set of The Exorcist, confessed to the murders.
Best picture of Michael Douglas EVER. Promoting Behind the Candelabra.
Scream! See the video below and take in my take on the amazing adventures of Scott Thorson here, or reprinted at Nightcharm and/or the Huffington Post.
Rapidly becoming my new role model, Helen Mirren — who was once best friends with my boyfriend Brad Davis — read the riot act to a bunch of unnecessarily noisy gays promoting a music festival by banging drums while she was trying to perform onstage in a nearby theatre.
In full costume as Queen Elizabeth II, Helen emerged at interval visibly furious and used words like “fuck” and phrases like “fuck off” as she kicked the troublemakers to the curb. VIDEO:
Miss Crawford did not grow old as other women do, nor did she become a dehydrated version of her former self as other movie queens are apt to do. Age could not wither her nor custom stale her infinite monotony. Instead, her face appeared to undergo what geologists term a process of denudation. As the tides of youth receded, the implacable ambition upon which the critics remarked in her early films emerged slowly like a smouldering volcano arriving from the sea.
The cheeks became more hollow, the eyes more prominent, and the mouth took on the permanent curve of lips that are determined not to cry. Toward the end of her life, she looked like a hungry insect magnified a million times — a praying mantis that had forgotten how to pray. Even her springy posture started to resemble the stance of a brave soldier facing death.
The mystery of a Garbo or a Dietrich is a veiled glimpse of delights that, out of indifference or sheer perversity, they withhold from us. In Miss Crawford’s gaze we read the mystery that we are to her. Apparently, our presence wounds or angers or terrifies her. Her method of dealing with the menace of human relationships was to become a star — to be unassailable. In this ambition, she was abetted by Mr. Mayer, of whom, unlike so many actresses of her day, she never spoke badly. They were, for many years, in almost total agreement. He told her that it was her duty to him to live every moment of her public life as a star, and this, using her nearly inexhaustible fund of self-discipline, she did. The strain must always have been considerable and in time, if the grim tales told by her daughter are to be believed, it became unbearable.
Pavel Petel goes pink. And every other colour, including black. See more @ Nightcharm.