On the eve of the 26th annual London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival (LLGFF), scheduled for the 23rd of March, the lovely guys and girls at the BFI releasing a collection of 4 rarely seen classic shorts from Lloyd Reckord, Andy Milligan, Bill Douglas and Peter de Rome along with a 24-page booklet and a spanking new interview with Lloyd Reckord.
Lloyd Reckord’s Dream A40 (1965) is up first; set before the Sexual Offences Act Decriminalised homosexuality, a young gay couple make a journey from the sanctuary of urban life through the rural British countryside where the law hinders the young couples desires. Along with a poignant and reserved approach to homosexuality, this film avoids the breaching decent into exploitation and stays afloat through being subtle and suggestive, Dream A40 captures the fear and guilt that homosexuals had to deal with in the early 60s, and the two unnamed protagonists played by Michael Billington and Nicholas Wright depict a raw and honest portrayal of gay men. With a lingering public gaze, Reckord emphasizes the uneasiness and struggle of the couple with an ending that resonates as an all too believable and cruel one. In addition to Dream A40 the DVD includes a short accompanying interview with Lloyd Reckord, which discusses his initial problems with being typecast in early theatre work and his aspirations in becoming a director, which successfully contextualizes the circumstances of the texts production.
Second on the list is Andy Milligan’s Vapors (1965), Milligan’s first venture in film which explores the New York gay scene, in particular one of it’s bath houses which was a notable hangout at the time. It focuses on a tentative relationship between two equally inexperienced strangers that talk about their very separate lives. Thomas, played by Gerald Jacuzzo, gives an outstanding performances as a reserved homosexual who awaits a visitor who finally comes in the form of Mr Jaffee (Robert Dahdah) who plays a closet-gay unnervingly well. Milligan’s overly shaking camera often frames the characters in a very abstract way, giving Vapors a subjective gaze that plays with the audiences desires for visual pleasure and frustrates with not showing what’s promised; the 31 minutes is filled with tantalising images but finishes before the audiences is shown anything. The footage is claustrophobic and creates a dense relationship between Thomas and Mr Jaffee, along with the editing (done by Gerald Jacuzzo’s pseudonym Gerald Jackson) which dices their emotional talk with camp humor supplied by the surrounding queens.
Vapors is a tireless camp classic but the writting in the DVD booklet by John David Rhodes comes at the text with a tired sensibility, if you want more colourful and rugged literature about gay cinema and the Deuce in NYC I suggest ‘Sleazoid Express’ which demonstrates a much deeper understanding of Vapors and of Andy Milligan.
Come Dancing (Bill Douglas, 1970) is the third installment in the series of shorts; made up of a continuum of glances, dialogue and suggestive body-parts. Douglas uncovers a whimsical story that captures loneliness, longing and a surprising hierarchy shift. With the title being almost an invitation in itself, Come Dancing has many little moments where it really captures the purity of the unnamed characters. Not the shining star in this collection but it’s interesting to see one of Douglas’ student films before his success with My Childhood (1972), My Ain Folk (1973) and My Way Home (1978).
The final piece of gay cinema exhibited in this collection is the wonderful and daring Encounter (Peter De Rome, 1971), this wordless erotic fantasy is presented with a new score by Stephen Thrower, just for this release. Filled with nudity and excess, Encounter delivers the titillation the other 3 films failed on but doesn’t hold the same social commentary that the others do. Compelled by an unspoken and shared urge, numerous young men wander through New York to amalgamate in a powerfully unified semi-orgy. Tender and delicate, with a simple cinema verite this piece of cinema was never meant to be shown publicly along with a lot of his work from the 60′s, fortunately it features here as it isn’t included in The Erotic Films of Peter De Rome which is being released by the BFI a few days later than this collection.
Overall, this collection of 4 ground-breaking classics of gay cinema features well picked and well deserved examples of appreciation and would make a great take-home accompaniment to anyone going to the LLGFF this march or a great solution to someone that can’t make it.
Encounters is released on the 26th March on DVD – order your copy here