Archive for Film Nights

My Beautiful Laundrette by Hanif Kureishi

We liked the feel-good, positive factor, some of us remembering the 1980s as a very bleak decade.

Some people belong nowhere and search for identity – the gay person as much as someone of an ethnic minority.

This film received an Oscar nomination for Best Screenplay in 1984. This was the first British film to openly depict a gay romance.

It is set in London during the Thatcher era and focuses on Omar, a young Pakistani man living in London, and his reunion and eventual romance with his old friend, a named Johnny. The two become the caretakers and business managers of a launderette originally owned by Omar’s uncle Nasser.

The plot addresses several issues of the time, including homosexuality and racism, depicted within the social and economic climate of Thatcherism. Also alienation, exclusion, conflict and and sense of belonging.

Race: Omar’s achievements come despite his minority ethnic status in 1980s British society, striking a chord with the neoliberal ideal expressed by his uncle, Nasser, who states there’s “no such thing as race in the new enterprise society.” Yet the beating which Johnny, Omar and his Uncle Salim face at the hands of white nationalists suggests otherwise. The reality of Thatcherism, far from heralding the erasure of racial distinctions, was that of escalating racist violence, provoked by increasing economic inequality and symbolic legislation.

Throughout the film, the fascists reappear. In one scene before their attack, where they stand, armed and waiting, around the laundrette. Never assume that xenophobic nationalism will forever remain on the fringe.

At the climax, one of the fascists takes a metal bin and hurls it into Omar’s laundrette window. Though they had previously found employment there, it was of a menial nature, presumably low paid, and failed to mitigate their repulsion at working for a Pakistani who, as one of them articulates, “came over here to work for us.”

Sex: British Asians were popularly regarded as dowdy, puritanical and family-focussed rather than hedonistic. Yet here, Omar has a relationship with someone who’s not his fiancée, with a man rather than a woman, and with a poorly educated skinhead of the kind many immigrants would have feared and despised in equal measure. This same-sex relationship is depicted explicitly – at a time when much of the conservative establishment decried homosexuality in the name of Victorian values, and when the popular press used the AIDS epidemic as an excuse to castigate gay people. Though occasionally fraught, the leads’ romance is mostly fun, certainly not tragic.

Contrasts: The movie is not concerned with plot, but with giving us a feeling for the society its characters inhabit. Modern Britain is a study in contrasts, between rich and poor, between upper and lower classes, between native British and the various immigrant groups — some of which, such as the Pakistanis, have started to prosper. To this mixture, the movie adds the conflict between straight and gay.

A critique of postcolonial Britain is achieved through Kureishi’s battery of conflicts—between whites and Asians, between whites and whites, between the Asian and African diasporas, between Asian brother and brother, between Asian parents and their adult children, between men and women. The fact that Omar and Johnny’s sexual relationship is not a source of social conflict, unlike that of Nasser and Rachel, is significant. It’s a masterful stroke of gay-straight taboo reversal that proposes that behaviour conventional society has historically vilified may be the most likely to promote harmony.

The two men rekindle their teenage relationship when they are alone together in the laundrette. It is illustrative of how they escaped the ethical and moral boundaries that both society and Omar’s family had imposed on them. When they are left alone in the laundrette, they are able to surpass Omar’s family’s cultural expectation of a heterosexual arranged marriage between Omar and Tania. Similarly, Johnny is able to detach himself from his racist group of resentful white working class peers and form a relationship with the supposed “other”

Newly employed by Omar, he acquires a sense of self-worth and—if not quite a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis—swaps his too-long-lived-in tribal uniform for a brighter, cleaner look. Observed by Omar in the moments before the laundrette’s opening, he mounts the table where customers will fold their spin-dried clothes and stands there like an Adonis, the brief pose showing that the slumped, disconsolate figure he was at the start of the film has regenerated himself. He has also become the film’s moral centre, for he cautions Omar, who has “big plans” for taking over more laundrettes, not to become greedy. The film shares Hussein’s belief that, for the children of immigrants, education is the key to social enlightenment and integration.

Early images of Johnny reveal that he is a youth in transition—one who rejects the system crushing his generation by rejecting the street violence that results indirectly from Conservative policies. Newly employed by Omar, he acquires a sense of self-worth and—if not quite a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis—swaps his too-long-lived-in tribal uniform for a brighter, cleaner look. Observed by Omar in the moments before the laundrette’s opening, he mounts the table where customers will fold their spin-dried clothes and stands there like an Adonis, the brief pose showing that the slumped, disconsolate figure he was at the start of the film has regenerated himself. He has also become the film’s moral centre, for he cautions Omar, who has “big plans” for taking over more laundrettes, not to become greedy. The film shares Hussein’s belief that, for the children of immigrants, education is the key to social enlightenment and integration.

The disgruntled Tania (Rita Wolf), Nasser’s daughter, is the pivotal female character. Kureishi introduces her as the Ali family conscience and scold, who despises her father for cheating on her mother, Bilquis (Charu Bala Chokshi). She’s also a disruptive comic force. She flashes her breasts at Omar to distract him from listening to her father smugly hold forth to his well-heeled cronies in his den. In a temper, she upends on Bilquis’s lap the witch’s potion she’s concocting to poison Rachel. “I’d rather drink my own urine,” she tells Nasser when he presses her and Omar to get married. Tania is not about to become a submissive Pakistani wife like Bilquis, so she leaves home. When last seen, she is standing on a train station platform. A touch of magical realism removes her from patriarchal control.

The laundrette’s “Powders” neon sign, which makes its exterior resemble that of a small cinema. The interior is deep, as are those of many repertory theatres, and a “widescreen” window separates the washing, drying, and folding area (the space where the “action” takes place) from the back office (a darkened space from which the action can be viewed). Looking at—and through—the window, Omar admires Johnny doing his chores and standing on the table. As Johnny and Omar have sex in the back room before the opening, they become an audience watching Rachel and Nasser dancing in the front. The laundrette’s paying customers contribute to the notion of its being an emporium in which secrets are revealed, stories evolve, and events come to a head. This visual self-consciousness extends beyond the laundrette: at home or in cars, the characters frequently look at other characters through windows or at their own reflections. It’s a hall of mirrors for existential self-interrogation that demands the audience enter in.

The laundrette works as some kind of melting pot: a place where race, gender, and sexuality do not play a role, and where one has the opportunity to reinvent himself.

They chose blue to paint the facade: on the one hand this is the colour of hope, on the other hand, the fact they have chosen a pale version might not only underline their sexuality, but also the fact that there is still a long way to go in terms of equality and acceptance – especially considering that this peaceful atmosphere is only found inside the building. Outside it, there is still a multiethnic working-class structure which is completely fragmented, each element fighting against the others.

This simple laundrette in a shabby neighbourhood represents the rise, fall, and return to former ideals in one everyday place. It seems like the characters have literally washed their hands clean in the end, or, as Oliva describes, “the intelligent metaphor of the laundry seen as a means of cleaning up the dirt of filthy society”.

At the end, Britain’s rich are still getting richer and its poor are still getting poorer. The beautiful laundrette has been trashed, Nasser and Rachel have parted, and Tania has evaporated. Only Omar and Johnny’s unity is hopeful—they’re left flicking water at each other in a final positive image, the cares of the day forgotten with its soapsuds.

p. 85 Nasser thinks of becoming a sadhu – isn’t that Hindu and he’s a muslim?

Omar’s father and uncle do, as it seems, represent the two stages of the laundrette: the hardship and wasted potential

The uncle, Nasser, symbolizes the self-made man who took advantage of the situation and managed to establish a flourishing business, by “squeezing the tits of the system”. He is not entirely fond of Britain, but is, however, aware of the new possibilities that he knows how to use for himself in the “damn country which we hate and love.”

Omar’s father takes a rather different approach, having given up on finding a job in his original profession as a journalist, and now lives on welfare, which he hates so much. Having a Pakistani father and a white, British mother, who committed suicide, Omar’s mixed identity is determined from birth. Not only is he mixed in terms of race, but he is also confronted with two conflicting male role models and two very different cultures. As Pascual further states, the trains that pass outside the family’s window might symbolise the fluidity of Omar’s hybrid identity’

When the launderette has its grand opening, he shows up after everyone else has already left. For the left-wing socialist, who spends all his time in their dark apartment, this might be a moment of both: pride and sadness. One the one hand, he might be full of joy, seeing how well his son has adapted to life in Britain and how he has managed to build up a successful business; on the other hand, he might be sad to see how Omar has turned into a capitalist, making the most of Thatcher’s England.

…“never indulges in the kind of patronizing sentimentality that turns the Pakistanis into either social problems or mere victims of English racism.”

Kureishi’s work was heavily criticised, most notably by Ruvani Ranasinha, as approaching all issues from a male point of view, while he has been accused of mistreating his female characters

 Many black people and particularly Asians, hated it. The reason for this, I think, is because they refused to look at the film in any other way than as a piece of realism, that is to say, a film that attempted an accurate representation of its subject

One segment of the Asian community, however, had an overwhelmingly positive response to the film: gay South Asians throughout the diaspora. Trikone, a magazine for the South Asian queer diaspora, devoted almost an entire issue to the film in 2001 stating “the kiss between Johnny and Omar has, to many a queer South Asian, become the moment they came out to themselves”. In the same issue actor Gordon Warnecke, who played Omar, recounts how many gay South Asians have told him they identified with his character and were grateful for the film. In fact, gay communities internationally—South Asian and otherwise—responded positively to the film and it continues to be cited as a favorite gay romance. (In 2004, the Advocate named My Beautiful Laundrette one of the ten best gay or lesbian films of all time.) Part of this popularity results from the fact that rather than depicting its characters as conflicted over their sexual identities—as, for instance, the British film Victim (1961) did—the film shows Johnny and Omar simply as two men in love. Some viewers praised the film precisely because of this ease, while others objected, claiming it was unrealistic.

The film depicts gray streets, nearly empty businesses, and people wandering aimlessly. Nothing is growing or thriving in this environment. Kureishi and Frears’ vision of Thatcher’s England is one of economic devastation with little hope for change. Only one space stands out in this sea of gray: the transformed laundrette.

The conflicts between their respective communities are not healed via their romance—except symbolically inside the fantasy space of the laundrette. Thus, My Beautiful Laundrette avoids the traps some other national romances fall into and demonstrates the potential of the queer national romance to re-imagine the nation, a potential critics have not recognized. Insofar as the imagined community of the nation is itself a kind of collective fantasy, the film is able to do real work through its fantasy—even if the utopic space of the laundrette and the relationship it enables are ultimately unsustainable. The film uses its audience’s desire to see this fragile space survive to create an emotional investment in a new conception of Britishness.  Queer romances contest homophobic nationalisms as they revise imperial fantasies of domination, re-imagining citizenship in radical new ways.

Quotations from the Introduction:

In 1967, Duncan Sandys said: ‘The breeding of millions of half-caste children would merely produce a generation of misfits d create national tensions.’

I wasn’t a misfit; I could join the elements of myself together. It s the others, they wanted misfits; they wanted you to embody within yourself their ambivalence.

I saw the taking up of Islam as an aberration, a desperate fantasy of world-wide black brotherhood; it was a symptom of extreme alienation. It was also an inability to seek a wider politi­1 view or cooperation with other oppressed groups– or with the working class as a whole — since alliance with white groups was necessarily out of the question.

therefore the fact that I couldn’t rightfully lay claim to either place.

This made me think about the close-bonding within the families and about the intimacy and interference of an extended family and a more public way of life. Was the extended family worse than the little nuclear family because there were more people to dislike? Or better because relationships were less intense?

I compared the collective hierarchy of the family and the permanence of my family’s circle, with my feckless, rather rootless life in London, in what was called ‘the inner city’. There I lived alone, and lacked any long connection with anything. I’d hardly known anyone for more than eight years, and certainly not their parents. People came and went. There was much false intimacy and forced friendship. People didn’t take responsibility for each other.

The great master as fallen. Now it was seen as strikebound, drug-ridden, riot­orn, inefficient, disunited, a society which had moved too suddenly from puritanism to hedonism and now loathed itself.

These were: the idea of secular institutions based on reason, not revelation or scripture; the idea that there were no final solutions to human problems; and the idea that the health and vigour of a society was bound up with its ability t tolerate and express a plurality of views on all issues, and tha these views would be welcomed

It was that the English misunderstood the Pakistanis because they saw only the poor people, those from the villages, the illiterates, the peasants, the Pakistanis who didn’t know how t use toilets, how to eat with knives and forks because they we poor. If the British could only see them, the rich, the educated the sophisticated, they wouldn’t be so hostile. They’d know what civilized people the Pakistanis really were. And then they’d like them.

Those Pakistanis who have worked hard to establish busines now vote Tory and give money to the Conservative Party. T interests are the same as those of middle-class business people

But what is the Conservative view of them? Roger Scruton in his book The Meaning Of Conservatism sets out the case against m respect and understanding.

Firstly he deplores all race relations legislation and tries to justify certain kinds of racism by making it seem a harmless preference certain kinds of people. He calls this preference a ‘natural off of allegiance.

The Labour Party has failed to show that it is serious about combating racism and serious in representing the black working class.

There is real defensiveness and insecurity, a Victorian fear of revealing so much as a genital of an idea, the nipple of a notion or the sex of a syllogism. Where sexual exhibitionism and the discus­sion of positions and emissions is fashionable, indeed orthodox, thinking and argument are avoided.

I would rather walk naked down the street than stand up for the National Anthem.

Two days after my return I took my washing to a laundrette and gave it to the attendant only to be told she didn’t touch the clothes of foreigners: she didn’t want me anywhere near her blasted laundrette

I was in a rage. I thought: who wants to be British anyway? Or as a black American writer said: who wants to be integrated into a burning house anyway?

In his 1941 essay ‘England Your England’ Orwell says: ‘the gentleness of the English civilisation is perhaps its most marked characteristic’. He calls the country ‘a family with the wrong members in control’ and talks of the ‘soundness and homogenicity of England’.

Elsewhere he considers the Indian character. `maniacal suspiciousness’ which, agreeing, he claim Forster in A Passage To India, he calls ‘the be vice . . .’ But he has the grace to acknowledge in-] Counting Niggers’ that the overwhelming bulk 1 proletariat [lives] . . . in Asia and Africa’.

But this is niggardly. The main object of his praise is `tolerance’ and he writes of ‘their gentle manners’ that this aspect of England ‘is continuous, it sue future and the past, there is something in it that persists.

Tolerant, gentle British whites have no idea he tolerance is experienced by blacks here. No idea a hostility and contempt directed against black people state and individual alike in this land once describe being not one of ‘rubber truncheons’ or `Jew-baiters but of flower-lovers’ with ‘mild knobbly faces’. But in pm the flower-lovers are all gone, the rubber truncheons or Jew-baiters are at large, and if any real contemporary a given to Orwell’s blind social patriotism, then `tolerance’ must be seriously examined for depth substantial content.

In the meantime it must be made clear that black `tolerance’ in this particular condescending way It isn’t this particular paternal tyranny that is wanted, since ut is adjustments to British society that have to be made.

despite the efforts of touring companies and so failed to get its ideas beyond a small enthusiastic audience.

The film started off as an epic. It was to be like The Godfather, opening in the past with the arrival of an immigrant family in England and showing their progress to the present.

old shop we built a laundrette of such authenticity that  people came in off the street with their washing;

Quotations from the film:

 I don’t like to see one of our blokes [Johnny] grovelling to Pakis. Look they came over here to work for us. That’s why we brought them over, okay?

What chance would an Englishman give a leftist communist Pakistani on newspapers?”

“What chance a racist Englishman has given us that we haven’t taken it from him with our hands?”

“Families. I hate families.”

“And you must understand, we’re of different generations; different classes. Everything is waiting for you. The only thing that has ever waited for me, is your father.”

He adores you. I expect he wants you to take over the businesses. He wouldn’t think of asking me.”

“You tell him: you go to college. He must have knowledge. We all must, now. In order to see clearly what’s being done and to whom in this Country, right?”

Nasser: I thought you two were getting married.

Omar: Yes, any day now.

Tania: I’d rather drink my own urine.

Omar: I hear it can be quite tasty with a slice of lemon.

 

Nasser: [to Omar] In this damn country, which we hate and love, you can get anything you want. It’s all spread out and available. That’s why I believe in England. Only you need to know how to squeeze the tits of the system.

 

Nasser: [to Johnny] I’m a professional businessman not a professional Pakistani. And there is no question of race in the new enterprise culture.

 

Papa: You must be getting married. Why else would you be dressed like an undertaker on holiday?

Omar: Going to Uncle’s house, Papa. He’s given me a car.

Papa: What? The brakes must be faulty. Tell me one thing because there’s something I don’t understand, though it must be my fault. How is it that scrubbing cars can make a son of mine look so ecstatic?

Omar: It gets me out of the house.

Papa: Don’t get too involved with that crook. You’ve got to study. We are under siege by the white man. For us education is power. [Omar shakes his head at his father] Don’t let me down.

 

Johnny: [driving Cherry and Salim home, Omar stops by a bunch of street kids, one of whom is Johnny. Omar gets out of the car to talk to Johnny] [indicating his friends] Like me friends?

Omar: Ring us then.

Johnny: I will. [indicates the car where Cherry is getting very angry] Leave ’em there. We can do something. Now. Just us.

 

Omar: I’m being promoted. To Uncle’s laundrette.

Papa: [throwing a pair of socks to Omar] Illustrate your washing methods!

 

Johnny: [Omar is showing Johnny round the laundrette] I’m dead impressed by all this.

Omar: You were the one at school. The one I liked.

Johnny: [sarcastically] All the Pakis liked me.

 

Nasser: [Nasser bursts into the room where Johnny and Omar made love just moments before] What the hell are you doing? Sunbathing?

Omar: Asleep, Uncle. We were shagged out.

 

Salim: I want to talk to Omar about business.

Johnny: I dunno where he is.

Salim: Is it worth waiting?

Johnny: In my experience, it’s always worth waiting for Omo.

 

Johnny: Fuck me! What’s she doing with that mouse?

 

Nasser: [whilst having sex with his lover] Christ, you move like a liner.

 

Nasser: Yes… But first we must marry Omar off. [Cut to Omar and Johnny making love in the back room]

 

Johnny: Ain’t nothing I can say to make it up to you. There’s only things I can do to show you… That I am with you.

 

Nasser: [to Omar] Nothing but a toilet and a youth club. A constant boil on my bum.

 

Papa: [to Omar] Work now till you go back to college. And I’m fixing you up with a job with your uncle.

 

Nasser: [to Omar] Okay, I charge you basic rent. The key you keep.

 

Papa: [on the phone] Oh, one thing more, try to fix him up with a nice girl. I’m not sure his penis is in full working order.

 

Johnny: [to Omar] A laundrette as big as the Ritz. Oh yes.

 

Nasser: What are you doing, boy?

Omar: It will be going into profit any day now. Partly because I hired a bloke of astounding competence and strength of body and mind.

 

Gang Member: Why are you working for these people? Pakis.

Johnny: It’s work, that’s why.

 

Nasser: Where are those two buggers?

 

Papa: [to Omar] I don’t want my son in this underpants cleaning condition.

 

[first lines] Johnny: We’re moving house.

 

[last lines]  Johnny: Don’t you be touching me!

 

Omar: What are you going to do with me?

Nasser: What am I going to do with you? Turn you into something damn good.

 

Nasser: [to Omar] On the other hand a little water on the brain might clear your thoughts.

 

Salim: [to Omar] You’re one of us now Omar.

 

Nasser: What bloke?

Omar: He’s called Johnny.

 

Johnny: Today has been the best day.

Omar: Yeah, almost the best day.

 

Nasser: [to Omar] Bring Tania over here. Marry her. Well, what’s wrong with her? When I say marry her, you damn well do it. Be nice to her, pressure off my fucking head. Your penis works doesn’t it? Get going!

 

Omar: It took you a while to get onto us.

Salim: Wanted to see what you’d do. How’s your Papa? So many books written and read. Politicians sought him out. Bhutto was his close friend. But we’re nothing in England without money.

 

Papa: This damn country has done us in. That’s why I’m like this. We should be there. Home.

Nasser: But that country’s been sodomised by religion. It’s beginning to interfere with the making of money. Compared with everywhere… it’s a little heaven, here.

 

Johnny: We’ll just have to do a job to get the money.

Omar: I don’t want you going back to all that!

Johnny: Just to get us through, Omo. We’re going to go on. You want that, don’t you?

Omar: Yeah. I want you.

 

Omar: You know who I saw today? Johnny. Johnny!

Papa: The boy who came here dressed as a fascist with a quarter-inch of hair?

Omar: He was a friend once, for years.

Papa: There were times when he didn’t deserve your admiration so much.

Omar: Christ, I’ve known him since I was five!

Papa: He went too far.

 

Omar: Where did you go? You just disappeared.

Johnny: Drinking, I went. With my old mates. It ain’t illegal.

Omar: Of course it is, laundrettes are a big commitment. Why aren’t you at work?

Johnny: It’ll be closing time soon. You’ll be locking the place up, and coming to bed.

Omar: No, it never closes. One of us has got to be there. That way, we begin to make money.

Johnny: You’re getting greedy.

Omar: I want big money. I’m not going to be beat down by this country.

 

Salim: There’s some things between them I’m looking into.

 

Tania: I’m going. You can come.

Johnny: No good jobs like this around.

Tania: Omar just runs you around everywhere, like a servant.

Johnny: I’ll stay here with my friend and fight it out.

Tania: My family, Salim and all… will swallow you up like a little kebab.

Johnny: I couldn’t leave him. Not now. Don’t ask me to. You ever touched him?

 

 

Omar: When we were in school, you and your friends were kicking me around the place. And what are you doing now? Washing my floor and that’s how I like it.

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The Imitation Game

TIG(We have not discussed this in the group but it was a ‘spin off’ from one of our meetings and this review is in a personal capacity.)

Director Morten Tyldum takes on the story of Alan Turing, the genius cryptographer who cracked the infamous Enigma code during the Second World War. Benedict Cumberbatch delivers a career-best performance in the lead, betraying his character’s innermost feelings through delicate inflections. He also has fine sparring partners in Charles Dance (as Turing’s superior) and Keira Knightley (as his confidante and fiancée). Fascinating and thrilling, The Imitation Game keeps you gripped by always offering a reminder of what’s at stake, as well as exploring the mind of a brilliant but unfairly treated war hero who should never be forgotten.

In 1951, two policemen, Nock and Staehl, investigate the mathematician Alan Turing after an apparent break-in at his home. During his interrogation by Nock, Turing tells of his time working at Bletchley Park.

In 1927 the young Turing is unhappy and bullied at boarding school. He develops a friendship with Christopher Morcom, who sparks his interest in cryptography, and Turing develops romantic feelings for him. Before Turing can confess his love, Christopher dies unexpectedly from tuberculosis.

When Britain declares war on Germany in 1939, Turing travels to Bletchley Park, where, under the direction of Commander Alastair Denniston, he joins the cryptography team of Hugh Alexander, John Cairncross, Peter Hilton, Keith Furman and Charles Richards. The team are trying to decrypt the Enigma machine, which the Nazis use to send coded messages.

Turing is difficult to work with, and considers his colleagues inferior; he works alone to design a machine to decipher Enigma. After Denniston refuses to fund construction of the machine, Turing writes to Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who puts Turing in charge of the team and funds the machine. Turing fires Furman and Richards and places a difficult crossword in newspapers to find replacements. Joan Clarke, a Cambridge graduate, surpasses Turing’s test but her parents will not allow her to work with the male cryptographers. Turing arranges for her to live and work with the female clerks who intercept the messages, and shares his plans with her.

Turing’s machine, which he names Christopher, is constructed, but cannot determine the Enigma settings before the Germans reset the Enigma encryption each day. Denniston orders it destroyed and Turing fired, but the other cryptographers threaten to leave if Turing goes. After Clarke plans to leave on the wishes of her parents, Turing proposes marriage, which she accepts. During their reception, Turing confirms his homosexuality to Cairncross, who warns him to keep it secret. After overhearing a conversation with a female clerk about messages she receives, Turing has an epiphany, realising he can program the machine to decode words he already knows exist in certain messages. After he recalibrates the machine, it quickly decodes a message and the cryptographers celebrate; however, Turing realises they cannot act on every decoded message or the Germans will realise Enigma has been broken.

Turing discovers that Cairncross is a Soviet spy. When Turing confronts him, Cairncross argues that the Soviets are allies working for the same goals, and threatens to retaliate by disclosing Turing’s homosexuality if his role as an agent is revealed. When the MI6 agent Stewart Menzies appears to threaten Clarke, Turing reveals that Cairncross is a spy. Menzies reveals he knew this already, and planted Cairncross among them in order to leak messages to the Soviets for British benefit. Fearing for her safety, Turing tells Clarke to leave Bletchley Park, revealing that he is gay and lying about never having cared for her. After the war, Menzies tells the cryptographers to destroy their work and that they can never see one another again or share what they have done.

In the 1950s Turing is convicted of indecency and, in lieu of a jail sentence, undergoes chemical castration so he can continue his work. Clarke visits him in his home and witnesses his physical and mental deterioration. She comforts him by saying that his work saved millions of lives.

During a flashback to Turing’s former school, Sherborne, we see him separating the carrots from other satuff on hi plate. Then some bullies pile a whole tray of food over him.

The film was criticised by some for its inaccurate portrayal of historical events and Turing’s character and relationships. However, the LGBT civil rights advocacy and political lobbying organisation the Human Rights Campaign honoured The Imitation Game for bringing Turing’s legacy to a wider audience.

Despite earlier reservations, Turing’s niece Inagh Payne told Allan Beswick of BBC Radio Manchester that the film “really did honour my uncle” after she watched the film at the London Film Festival in October 2014. In the same interview, Turing’s nephew Dermont Turing stated that Cumberbatch is “perfect casting. I couldn’t think of anyone better”. James Turing, a great-nephew of the code-breaker, said Cumberbatch “knows things that I never knew before. The amount of knowledge he has about Alan is amazing”.

In January 2015, Cumberbatch, comedian-actor Stephen Fry, producer Harvey Weinstein, and Turing’s great niece Rachel Barnes launched a campaign to pardon the 49,000 gay men convicted under the same law that led to Turing’s chemical castration. An open letter published in The Guardian urged the British government and the Royal family, particularly Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, to aid the campaign.

The Human Rights Campaign’s Chad Griffin also offered his endorsement, saying: “Over 49,000 other gay men and women were persecuted in England under the same law. Turing was pardoned by Queen Elizabeth II in 2013. The others were not. Honor this movie. Honor this man. And honor the movement to bring justice to the other 49,000.” Aiding the cause are campaigner Peter Tatchell, Attitude magazine, and other high-profile figures in the gay community.

In February 2015, Matt Damon, Michael Douglas, Jessica Alba, Bryan Cranston, and Anna Wintour among others joined the petition at Pardon49k.org demanding pardons for victims of anti-gay laws. Other historians, including Justin Bengry of Birkbeck University of London and Matt Houlbrook of the University of Birmingham, argued that such a pardon would be “bad history” despite its political appeal, because of the broad variety of cases in which the historical laws were applied (including cases of rape) and the distortion of history resulting from an attempt to clean up the wrongdoings of the past post facto. Bengry also cites the existing ability of those convicted under repealed anti-homosexuality laws to have their convictions declared spent.

The film has received criticism from historians and academics regarding inaccuracies in the events and people it portrays.

  • Naming the Enigma-breaking machine “Christopher” after Turing’s childhood friend and suggesting that Turing was the only cryptographer working on it, with others either not helping or outright opposed.

In actuality, this electromechanical machine was called “Victory” and it was a collaborative, not individual, effort. It was a British Bombe machine, which was partly inspired by a design by the Polish cryptanalyst Marian Rejewski. Rejewski designed a machine in 1938 called bomba kryptologiczna which exploited a weakness in German operating procedures that was corrected in 1940. A new machine with a different strategy was designed by Turing (with a major contribution from mathematician Gordon Welchman, who goes unmentioned in the film, with the contribution attributed to Hugh Alexander instead) in 1940.

  • Suggesting that only this one machine was built, with Turing playing a large role in its construction.

More than 200 British Bombes were built under the supervision of chief engineer Harold Keen of the British Tabulating Machine Company. None of them were built at Bletchley Park.

  • Suggesting that the work at Bletchley Park was the effort of a small group of cryptographers who were stymied for the first few years of the war until a sudden breakthrough that allowed them to break Enigma.

Progress was actually made before the beginning of the war in 1939 and thousands of men and women were working on the project by the time the war ended in 1945. The computing advances did not obviate the need for human labour, as the many teams of largely female operators certainly knew. Throughout the war, there were breakthroughs and setbacks when the design or use of the German Enigma machines was changed and the Bletchley Park code breakers had to adapt.

Moreover, the breakthrough depicted in the film provides the impression that first the Bombe was developed, then only became effective after it was later realised that deciphering could be made easier by looking for known or speculated items contained in an intercepted message, a practice known in cryptanalysis as employing a crib. However, in reality, the opposite is true; the use of cribs was the central attack model upon which the Bombe’s principal design was based, rather than being an afterthought to the design.

  • Suggesting that Enigma was the only German cipher broken at Bletchley Park.

The breaking of the Lorenz cipher, codenamed “Tunny”, was arguably just as important as the breaking of Enigma in terms of contributing to the value of Ultra intelligence, and the code-breaking effort was in many ways more difficult. Neither the Tunny effort nor its main contributors, mathematician W. T. “Bill” Tutte and electrical engineer Tommy Flowers, are mentioned in the film. The Colossus computer they built goes unmentioned by name in the film, although there is an implicit suggestion that Turing was responsible for it, which he was not.

  • Showing a scene where the Hut 8 team decides not to use broken codes to stop a German raid on a convoy that the brother of one of the code breakers (Peter Hilton) is serving on, to hide the fact they have broken the code.

In reality, Hilton had no such brother, and decisions about when and whether to use data from Ultra intelligence were made at much higher administrative levels.

  • Showing Turing writing a letter to Churchill to gain control over Enigma breaking and obtain funding for the decryption machine.

Turing was actually not alone in making a different request with a number of colleagues, including Hugh Alexander, writing a letter to Churchill (who had earlier visited there) in an effort to get more administrative resources sent to Bletchley Park, which Churchill immediately did.

  • The depiction of the recruitment of Joan Clarke as a result of an examination after solving a crossword puzzle in a newspaper.

In reality, Joan Clarke was recruited by her former academic supervisor, Gordon Welchman, to the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS).

While a few writers and researchers have tried to assign such a retrospective diagnosis to Turing, and it is true that he had his share of eccentricities, the Asperger’s-like traits portrayed in the film – social awkwardness, difficulty working cooperatively with others, and tendency to take things too literally – bear little relationship to the actual adult Turing, who, despite enjoying working alone, was sociable and had friends, was also viewed as having a sense of humour, and had good working relationships with colleagues.

  • Scenes about Turing’s childhood friend, including the manner in which Turing learned of Morcom’s illness and death.
  • Portraying Turing’s arrest as happening in 1951 and having a detective suspect him of being a Soviet spy until Turing tells his code-breaking story in an interview with the detective, who then discovers Turing is gay.

Turing’s arrest was in 1952. The detective in the film and the interview as portrayed are fictional. Turing was investigated for his homosexuality after a robbery at his house and was never investigated for espionage.

  • Suggesting that the chemical castration that Turing was forced to undergo made him unable to think clearly or do any work.

Despite physical weakness and changes in Turing’s body including gynaecomastia, at that time he was doing innovative work on mathematical biology, inspired by the very changes his body was undergoing due to chemical castration.

  • Clarke visiting Turing in his home while he is serving probation.

There is no record of Clarke ever visiting Turing’s residence during his probation, although Turing did stay in touch with her after the war and informed her of his upcoming trial for indecency.[91]

  • Stating outright that Turing committed suicide after a year of hormone treatment.

In reality, the nature of Turing’s death is a matter of considerable debate. The chemical castration period ended fourteen months before his death. The official inquest into his death ruled that he had committed suicide by consuming a cyanide-laced apple. Turing biographer Andrew Hodges believes the death was indeed a suicide, re-enacting the poisoned apple from Snow White, Turing’s favourite fairy tale, with some deliberate ambiguity included to permit Turing’s mother to interpret it as an accident. However, Jack Copeland, an editor of volumes of Turing’s work and Director of the Turing Archive for the History of Computing, has suggested that Turing’s death may have been accidental, caused by the cyanide fumes produced by an experiment in his spare room, and that the investigation was poorly conducted.

Denniston’s grandchildren stated that the film takes an “unwarranted sideswipe” at their grandfather’s memory, showing him to be a “baddy” and a “hectoring character” who hinders the work of Turing. They said their grandfather had a completely different temperament from the one portrayed in the film and was entirely supportive of the work done by cryptographers under his command. There is no record of the film’s depicted interactions between Turing and Denniston. Indeed, before the war, Denniston recruited lecturers at Oxford and Cambridge, and Turing, Welchman, and others began working part-time for him then. Turing was always respected and considered one of the best code-breakers at Bletchley Park and in short order took on the role of a leader there.

Many interviews conducted with many of the people who worked at Bletchley Park have said many times that they had been instructed not to ask about activities in other huts. There’s several scenes where other characters do just that, such as when the code breakers are celebrating in the pub and ask Helen about her work in her hut and also when Joan mentions about how the girls in one hut had been in a row over events in another hut.

Joan was not hired after solving a crossword puzzle in the newspaper. She was at Bletchley Park already when she was promoted to work with Turing’s group. Turing, however, did publish a crossword puzzle in the January 13, 1942 London Daily Telegraph in an effort to recruit more code-breakers.

While the group is trying to decipher the daily Enigma code, the wall clock strikes midnight setting off an alarm. In frustration, Hugh throws all of the days work to the floor because the German military change the Enigma code daily at midnight (German time) rendering the work useless. However, the work done could be completed (as was often done) in the early hours of the morning or at a later date – the information would not be as timely, but the intercepts and any work would be saved, not discarded.

In the opening scene, the police sergeant describes Turing as a ‘professor at King’s’ and he is then addressed as ‘Professor Turing’. At this time Turing had been at Manchester University for several years where he was a Reader, not a Professor. In any case, it is most unlikely that King’s College Cambridge would have been referred to simply as ‘King’s’ outside that town, there being other notable colleges of that name such as King’s College London.

At the end, Turing is portrayed as working on his own computer in Manchester. In reality, while he had such a project called ACE (Automatic Computing Engine) at the National Physical Laboratory, he abandoned this due to lack of progress. He moved to the University of Manchester after they demonstrated the first stored program computer, as he was primarily interested in programming the machines rather than building them.

The narrative conceit of the film is that Alan Turing explains his curiously empty military record by describing all his wartime codebreaking activities to a police detective in 1951. But there is no evidence that a single one of the workers at Bletchley Park ever breathed a word about what they had done during the War to anybody – even their own families – prior to the late 1970s. It is safe to assume that Alan Turing certainly never did.

“If any young person’s ever felt like they aren’t quite sure who they are, or aren’t allowed to express themselves the way they’d like to express themselves, if they’ve ever felt bullied by what they feel is the normal majority or any kind of thing that makes them feel an outsider, then this is definitely a film for them because it’s about a hero for them,” Cumberbatch stated at the European Premiere of the film at the London Film Festival, October 2014

Christopher Morcom: Sometimes it’s the very people who no one imagines anything of who do the things no one can imagine.

Alan Turing: Do you know why people like violence? It is because it feels good. Humans find violence deeply satisfying. But remove the satisfaction, and the act becomes… hollow.

Final quotes: His machine was never perfected, though it generated a whole field of research into what became known as “Turing Machines”. Today we call them “computers”.

Joan Clarke: I know it’s not ordinary. But who ever loved ordinary?

Alan Turing: When people talk to each other, they never say what they mean. [pause] They say something else and you’re expected to just know what they mean.

Alan Turing: Are you paying attention? Good. If you are not listening carefully, you will miss things. Important things. I will not pause, I will not repeat myself, and you will not interrupt me. You think that because you’re sitting where you are, and I am sitting where I am, that you are in control of what is about to happen. You’re mistaken. I am in control, because I know things that you do not know.  [pause]  hat I will need from you now is a commitment. You will listen closely, and you will not judge me until I am finished. If you cannot commit to this, then please leave the room. But if you choose to stay, remember you chose to be here. What happens from this moment forward is not my responsibility. It’s yours. Pay attention.

John Cairncross: The boys, we’re going to get some lunch. [no response] Alan?

Alan Turing: Yes?

John Cairncross: I said we’re going to get some lunch. [no response] Alan?

Alan Turing: Yes?

John Cairncross: Can you hear me?

Alan Turing: Yes.

John Cairncross: I said we’re off to get some lu-… [disrupts himself]

John Cairncross: This is starting to get a little bit repetitive.

Alan Turing: What is?

John Cairncross: I had asked, if you wanted to come have lunch with us.

Alan Turing: No, you didn’t, you said you were going to get some lunch.

John Cairncross: Have I offended you in some way?

Alan Turing: Why would you think that?

John Cairncross: Would you like to come to lunch with us?

Alan Turing: What time’s lunch time?

Hugh Alexander: [Frustrated] Christ, Alan, it’s a bleeding sandwich.

Alan Turing: What is?

Hugh Alexander: Lunch.

Alan Turing: Oh, I don’t like sandwiches.

John Cairncross: Nevermind.

Alan Turing: I like solving problems, Commander. And Enigma is the most difficult problem in the world.

Commander Denniston: Enigma isn’t difficult, it’s impossible. The Americans, the Russians, the French, the Germans, everyone thinks Enigma is unbreakable.

Alan Turing: Good. Let me try and we’ll know for sure, won’t we?

Alan Turing: Of course machines can’t think as people do. A machine is different from a person. Hence, they think differently. The interesting question is, just because something, uh… thinks differently from you, does that mean it’s not thinking? Well, we allow for humans to have such divergences from one another. You like strawberries, I hate ice-skating, you cry at sad films, I am allergic to pollen. What is the point of… different tastes, different… preferences, if not, to say that our brains work differently, that we think differently? And if we can say that about one another, then why can’t we say the same thing for brains… built of copper and wire, steel?

Joan Clarke: Alan, what’s happened?

Alan Turing: [pause] We can’t be engaged anymore. Your parents need to take you back. Find you a husband elsewhere.

Joan Clarke: What’s wrong with you?

Alan Turing: I have something to tell you. I’m… I’m a homosexual.

Joan Clarke: Alright.

Alan Turing: No, no, men, Joan. Not women.

Joan Clarke: So what?

Alan Turing: I just told you…

Joan Clarke: So what? I had my suspicions. I always did. But we’re not like other people. We love each other in our own way, and we can have the life together that we want. You won’t be the perfect husband? I can promise you I harboured no intention of being the perfect wife. I’ll not be fixing your lamb all day, while you come home from the office, will I? I’ll work. You’ll work. And we’ll have each other’s company. We’ll have each other’s minds. Sounds like a better marriage than most. Because I care for you. And you care for me. And we understand one another more than anyone else ever has.

Alan Turing: I don’t.

Joan Clarke: What?

Alan Turing: Care for you. I never did. I just needed you to break Enigma. I’ve done that now, so you can go.

Joan Clarke: [slaps him] I am not going anywhere. I have spent entirely too much of my life worried about what you think of me, or what my parents think of me, or what the boys in Hut 8 or the girls in Hut 3 think, and you know I am done. This work is the most important thing I will ever do. And no one will stop me. Least of all you. [pause] You know what? They were right. Peter. Hugh. John. You really are a monster.

[last lines]  Alan Turing: You got what you wanted. A husband, a job… a normal life.

Joan Clarke: No one normal could have done that. Do you know, this morning… I was on a train that went through a city that wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for you. I bought a ticket from a man who would likely be dead if it wasn’t for you. I read up on my work… a whole field of scientific inquiry that only exists because of you. And while you wish you could have been normal… I can promise you I do not. The world is an infinitely better place precisely because you weren’t.

Alan Turing: You really think that?

Joan Clarke: I think, that sometimes it is the people who no one imagines anything of, who do the things no one… can imagine.

[first lines] Alan Turing: Are you paying attention? Good. If you’re not listening carefully you will miss things. Important things. I will not pause, I will not repeat myself, and you will not interrupt me. If you think that because you’re sitting where you are and I am sitting where I am that you are in control of what is about to happen, you ‘re mistaken. I am in control, because I know things that you do not know.

Hugh Alexander: If you run the wires across the plugboard matrix diagonally, you’ll eliminate rotor positions 500 times faster.

Alan Turing: This is actually not an entirely terrible idea.

Joan Clarke: That’s Alan for “thank you.”

Alan Turing: Hardest time to lie to somebody is when they’re expecting to be lied to.

Alan Turing: Was I God? No. Because God didn’t win the war. We did.

 

Alan Turing: Advice about keeping secrets: it’s a lot easier if you don’t know them in the first place.

 

Stewart Menzies: [candidates are taking a timed test] Six minutes… is that even possible?

Alan Turing: No, it takes me eight.

Joan Clarke: [raises her hand]

Alan Turing: You’re finished?… Five minutes thirty four seconds.

Joan Clarke: You said to finish under six minutes.

 

Alan Turing: [after telling the story] Now you decide: Am I a machine? Am I a human? Am I a war hero? Or am I a criminal?

Detective Robert Nock: I can’t judge you.

Alan Turing: Well, then. You were of no help to me at all.

 

Alan Turing: Even a broken clock is right twice a day.

 

Alan Turing: Uh, that’s my sandwich.

Hugh Alexander: You don’t like sandwiches.

 

Alan Turing: Think of it. A digital computer. Electrical brain.

Alan Turing: [Explaining the Turing Test] “The Imitation Game.”

Detective Robert Nock: Right, that’s… that’s what it’s about?

Alan Turing: Would you like to play?

Detective Robert Nock: Play?

Alan Turing: It’s a game. A test of sorts. For determining whether something is a… a machine or a human being.

Detective Robert Nock: How do I play?

Alan Turing: Well, there’s a judge and a subject, and… the judge asks questions and, depending on the subject’s answers, determines who he is talking with… what he is talking with, and, um… All you have to do is ask me a question.

 

Stewart Menzies: Mr Turing, do you know how many people have died because of Enigma?

Alan Turing: No, I don’t.

Stewart Menzies: Three.

Alan Turing: Three?

Stewart Menzies: While we’ve been having this conversation.

Stewart Menzies: [he looks at his watch] Oh look, there’s another. I rather hope he didn’t have a family.

 

Alan Turing: You will never understand the importance of what I am creating here!

 

Stewart Menzies: Oh, Alan… we’re gonna have such a wonderful war together.

 

Commander Denniston: This is Stewart Menzies. MI6.

Charles Richards: There are only five divisions of military intelligence. There is no MI6.

Stewart Menzies: Exactly. That’s the spirit.

 

Alan Turing: He likes you.

Joan Clarke: Yes.

Alan Turing: You – you got him to like you.

Joan Clarke: Yes.

Alan Turing: Why?

Joan Clarke: Because I’m a woman in a man’s job, and I don’t have the luxury of being an ass.

 

Alan Turing: It wasn’t just programmable, it was reprogrammable.

 

Hugh Alexander: Damn you, you and your machine.

 

John Cairncross: What’s wrong?

Alan Turing: What if… what if I don’t fancy being with Joan in that way?

John Cairncross: Because you’re a homosexual? I suspected.

Alan Turing: Sh- should I tell her that I’ve had affairs with men?

John Cairncross: You know, in my admittedly limited experience, women tend to be a bit touchy about accidentally marrying homosexuals. Perhaps not spreading this information about might be in your best interest.

Alan Turing: I care for her, I truly do, but… I-I just don’t know if I can pretend…

John Cairncross: You can’t tell anyone, Alan. It’s illegal. And Denniston is looking for any excuse he can to put you away.

Alan Turing: I know.

John Cairncross: This has to stay a secret.

 

Alan Turing: Codes are a puzzle. A game, just like any other game.

 

Peter Hilton: You’re not God, Alan. You don’t get to decide who lives and who dies.

Alan Turing: Yes, yes we do.

Peter Hilton: Why? Why?

Alan Turing: Because we’re the only ones who can.

 

Detective Robert Nock: Mr Turing, can I tell you a secret?

Alan Turing: I’m quite good with those.

Detective Robert Nock: I’m here to help you.

Alan Turing: Oh, clearly!

Detective Robert Nock: Can machines think?

Alan Turing: Oh, so you’ve read some of my published works?

Detective Robert Nock: What makes you say that?

Alan Turing: Oh, because I’m sitting in a police station, accused of entreating a young man to touch my penis, and you’ve just asked me if machines can think.

Detective Robert Nock: Well, can they? Could machines ever think as human beings do?

Alan Turing: Most people say not.

Detective Robert Nock: You’re not most people.

 

Stewart Menzies: Why are you telling me this ?

Alan Turing: We need your help, to keep this a secret from Admiralty, Army, RAF. Ah… as no one can know, that we’ve broken enigma, not even

[Commander]

Alan Turing: Dennison

Stewart Menzies: Who’s in the process of having you fired ?

Joan Clarke: You can take care of that.

Alan Turing: While we develop a system to help you determine how much intelligence to act on. Which ahh attacks to stop, which to let through. Statistical analysis, the minimum number of actions it will take, for us to win the war – but the maximum number we can take, before the Germans get suspicious

Stewart Menzies: And you’re going to trust of this all to statistics ? To maths ?

Alan Turing: Correct.

Joan Clarke: And then MI6 can come up with the lies we will tell everyone else

Alan Turing: You’ll need a believable alternative source for all the pieces of information that you use

Joan Clarke: A false story, so that we can explain how we got our information, that has nothing to do with Enigma, and then you can leak those stories to the Germans

Alan Turing: And then to our own military

Stewart Menzies: Maintain a conspiracy of lies at the very highest levels of govt ?… Sounds right up my alley.

 

Commander Denniston: Well, you realize that six hundred miles away from London there’s this nasty little chap called Hitler who wants to engulf Europe in tyranny.

Alan Turing: Politics isn’t really my area of expertise.

 

Hugh Alexander: Love will make a man do strange things, I suppose.

Alan Turing: In this case, love just lost Germany the whole bloody war!

 

Hugh Alexander: You know to pull off this irascible genius routine, one has to actually be a genius.

 

Hugh Alexander: Because there’s nothing like a friend’s engagement to make a woman want to do something that she’ll later regret with the fiancé’s better looking chum.

 

Headmaster: [grilling young Alan about note-passing] You and your friend solve maths problems during maths class because the maths class is too dull?

 

Title Card: After a year of government-mandated hormonal therapy, Alan Turing committed suicide on June 7th, 1954.He was 41 years old. Between 1995 and 1967, approximately 49,000 homosexual men were convicted of gross indecency under British law. In 2013, Queen Elizabeth II granted Turing a posthumous royal pardon, honoring his unprecedented achievements.

Title Card: Historians estimate that breaking Enigma shortened the war by more than two years, saving over 14 million lives. It remained a government-held secret for more than 50 years. Turing’s work inspired generations of research into what scientists called “Turing Machines.” Today, we call them computers.

 

Alan Turing: Some people thought we were at war with the Germans. Incorrect. We were at war with the clock.

 

Hugh Alexander: [reading a decrypted message] “… is directed to 53 degrees 24 minutes north and aufpunkt one degree west.”

Hugh Alexander: “Heil Hitler.”

Alan Turing: Turns out that’s the only German you need to know to break Enigma.

 

Stewart Menzies: Burn everything.

Hugh Alexander: Burn? Why?

Stewart Menzies: You were told when you started this was a Top Secret program. Did you think we were joking?

Hugh Alexander: But the war is over.

Stewart Menzies: *This* war is. But there’Il be others.

Alan Turing: And we know how to break a code that everybody else believes is unbreakable.

Stewart Menzies: Precisely. Tear it down, light it up. Sweep away the ashes. None of you have ever met before. None of you have ever even heard the word “Enigma.” Have a safe trip home.

Stewart Menzies: [as they rise to go] Behave. With a bit of luck, you’ll never have to see me or one another again for the rest of your lives…

 

John Cairncross: If you tell them my secret, I’ll tell them yours.

 

Young Alan Turing: What’s that you’re reading?

Christopher Morcom: It’s about cryptography.

Young Alan Turing: Like secret messages?

Christopher Morcom: Not secret. That’s the brilliant part. Messages that anyone can see but no one knows what they mean, unless you have the key.

Young Alan Turing: How’s that different from talking?

Christopher Morcom: Talking?

Young Alan Turing: When people talk to each other, they never say what they mean, they say something else. And you’re expected to just know what they mean. Only I never do. So… How’s that different?

Christopher Morcom: Alan, I have a funny feeling you’re going to be very good at this.

 

Alan Turing: You can’t leave, I won’t let you.

Joan Clarke: I’ll miss you. That’s what a normal person would say in this situation.

Alan Turing: I-I don’t care what is normal!

Joan Clarke: What am I supposed to do, Alan? I will not give up my parents.

Alan Turing: You have an opportunity here to make some actual use of your life!

Joan Clarke: [offended] And end up like you? No thanks. I’m sorry you’re lonely. But Enigma will not save you. Can you decipher that, you fragile narcissist? Or would you like me to fetch your beloved Christopher to help?

 

Commander Denniston: Have you ever won a war, Turing? I have. You know how it’s done? Discipline, order, chain of command. You’re not at university any more, you’re a very small cog in a very large system. And you will do as your commanding officer instructs.

Alan Turing: Who – who is your commanding officer?

Commander Denniston: Winston Churchill. Number 10 Downing Street, London SWI. You have a problem with my decision, you can take it up with him.

 

Peter Hilton: All my friends, they’re making a difference while we just wile away our days, producing nothing! Because of you.

Alan Turing: My machine… will work.

 

Alan Turing: I’m not a spy. I’m… I’m just a mathematician.

Stewart Menzies: I know a lot of spies, Alan. You’ve got more secrets than the best of them.

 

Joan Clarke: [to a convalescing Alan] Why don’t we do a crossword puzzle? It’ll only take us five minutes. Or in your case, six.

 

Joan Clarke: Are you trying to build your universal machine? [Alan looks puzzled] I read your paper at university.

Alan Turing: Is it already being taught?

Joan Clarke: Oh no! I was precocious.

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Kiss of the Spider Woman (film)

kotsw-filmIncluded among the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”, edited by Steven Schneider.

Having read the novel, we realized very little was omitted from the movie, though some say that it’s “not like the book.” It lacks the tenderness between the two men which occurs in the book. However, the camp and stylised ending is such as Molina would have loved.

We wondered if the movie was ‘real’. I wasn’t but was made for inserting into this film, as the age of its actors testify.

The film begins, not unlike Un Chant d’Amour (Jean Genet’s classic, homoerotic, 1950 prison short), with the camera fixed on the wall of their jailhouse cell. We hear Molina’s voice, rapturously describing the star of his movie. “She’s not a woman like all the others,” he utters, along with the assertion that she is waiting for a “real man” like none she has ever met before. A circular camera pan slowly reveals the setting; we see the prison bars, a clothesline with feminine garments, pictures of glamorous movie stars on the wall, and finally Molina – wrapping a towel around his head to suggest a turban. He is dressed in a kimono, his feet, lady-like, step gracefully across the floor as he mimes the heroine stepping into her bath. Molina is exotic and sensual, and completely out of place in the grim prison setting.

The film version is, in many ways, more accessible than the original novel. The film is more tightly constructed because Molina tells the stories of several different movies in the book, beginning with Val Lewton’s classic 1942 Cat People. Only one of these films was emphasized in the movie and that was the Nazi film, whose central theme of betrayal mirrors Molina and Valentin’s situation, making Spider Woman a model of effective film adaptation. It’s easy to lose interest in Molina’s long monologues when reading the book; in the film his monologues come to life when illustrated by those campy clips.

Hector Babenco agonized all through rehearsals over how William Hurt would ever find the gay character in himself. To help Hurt tackle the part, and because author Manuel Puig was not available, Babenco put him with Patricio Bisso, who was set to play the small role of Molina’s friend Greta and design the film’s costumes. Bisso is gay, had been in jail himself, and was close to his mother, like Molina in many ways. Hurt toured Sao Paulo with him, often visiting gay cinemas, looking for clues to the character. Bisso got fed up translating the films for him and started making up the stories instead. Bisso later said Hurt used him as a “sacrificial lamb” for his process, playing cat and mouse games with him to get a sense of how Molina would react in similar circumstances. During one such session, Hurt took Bisso to a nice restaurant, but Bisso couldn’t eat because Hurt’s prodding and game-playing had made him cry.

Vito Russo was very critical of Kiss Of The Spider Woman in The Celluloid Closet and so were many other queer reviewers. Most of their criticisms however aren’t valid unless, like them, you refuse to see the film as anything but just another portrayal of a stereotypical screaming queen who dies in the last reel. Yes, Molina does die at the end, in much the same way as the heroine of the Nazi film, but it is all too probable that he won’t be alone and that Valentin will share the same fate. For that reason, it’s unfair to lump Spider Woman in the same category as an overblown, homophobic melodrama like Reflections In A Golden Eye. Besides, don’t most of Shakespeare’s leading men bite the dust in the last act too?

Kiss Of The Spider Woman was a radical, almost subversive, film on its first release as it explored concepts of gender roles and the question of what it ultimately means to be a man during a time when Rambo was the established norm of hyper-masculinity on the silver screen. Ponder too what it was like to watch two men kiss – not a common sight in a mainstream film during the 1980s. Kiss Of The Spider Woman broke much new ground and it still holds up today as one queer cinema’s milestones.

The movie Kiss of the Spider Woman deviates from Manuel Puig’s book in some very important ways that change the entire feel of the story.  Firstly, in the movie it is initially obvious what the setting and the characters are because the viewer can see the jail cell and see Molina and Valentin talking.  There are even scenes outside the cell and also scenes where Molina and Valentin see other prisoners.  The book takes a far more subtle approach opening with a description of a movie, but the reader does not even know what is being described.  Nothing is outright said in the book until chapter eight when the format deviates from Molina and Valentin’s dialogue to prisoner descriptions.  Knowing and understanding what is going on from the outset in the movie changes the mystery and confusion and ultimately does not allow the viewer to understand Molina and Valentin’s emotions and motivations in the same way.

Another important deviation is that in the movie version Molina only tells one film to Valentin — the Nazi propaganda one.  In the book he tells Valentin around five.  The story of political violence seemed to strike a chord with Valentin which may explain why that story was the one told, but cutting out the panther woman story negatively affected Molina’s characterization.  The panther woman, and his identification with her, helps the reader understand who Molina is and without that his character development in the movie lacked.

The cell block scenes were filmed in a prison that had been shut down. Scenes outside the prison were filmed on location in Sao Paulo.

kotsw-film-2Luis Molina: The nicest thing about feeling happy is that you think you’ll never be unhappy again.

[first lines] Luis Molina: She’s… well, she’s something a little strange. That’s what she noticed, that she’s not a woman like all the others. She seems all wrapped up in herself. Lost in a world she carries deep inside her.

[last lines]  Valentin Arregui: I love you so much. That’s the one thing I never said to you, because I was afraid of losing you forever.

Marta: That can never happen now. This dream is short, but this dream is happy.

Luis Molina: No matter how lonely she may be she keeps men at a distance.

Valentin Arregui: She’s probably got bad breath or something.

Valentine Arregui: You only know the reality that was stuck up your ass!

Luis Molina: Why should I think about reality in this stink hole? That’s like “Why should I get more depressed that I already am?”.

Valentine Arregui: You’re worse than I thought! Do you use these movies to jerk yourself off?

Luis Molina: [Crying] If you don’t stop, I will never speak to you again!

Valentin Arregui: Stop crying! You sound just like an old woman!

Luis Molina: [Whimpering] It’s what I am! It’s what I am!

Valentin Arregui: [Forcing Molina’s legs apart] What’s this between your legs, huh? Tell me, “lady”!

Luis Molina: It’s an accident. If I had the courage, I’d cut it off.

Valentin Arregui: You’d still be a man! A MAN! A MAN IN PRISON! JUST LIKE THE FAGGOTS THE NAZIS SHOVED IN THE OVENS!

Luis Molina: This girl’s finished.

Valentin Arregui: What girl?

Luis Molina: Me, stupid!

Valentin Arregui: Molina, you would never understand.

Luis Molina: What I understand is me offering you a bit of my lovely avocado and you throw it back in my face.

Valentin Arregui: Don’t talk like that! You’re just like a…

Luis Molina: A what? Go on, say it. [Arregui pauses]

Valentin Arregui: [to Molina] Shaddap! You damn faggot!

Valentin: ”Your life is as trivial as your movies”

Molina: ”Unless you have the keys to that door, I will escape in my own way, thank you.”

Valentin: ”I can’t afford to get spoiled.”

Molina: ”What kind of a cause is that, a cause that won’t let you eat an avocado?”-

You’re not cold taking your clothes off?

– How good you look . . .

– Ah . . .

– Molina . . .

– What?

– Nothing . . . I’m not hurting you?

– No . . . Ow yes, that way, yes.

Secret Policeman: [to Molina] You faggot piece of shit! You fell in love with that bastard?

Valentin Arregui: [Violently separating Molina’s legs] What’s this between your legs, eh? Tell me, “lady”!

Luis Molina: It’s an accident. If I had the courage I’d cut it off.

Valentin Arregui: You’d still be a man. A MAN! A man in prison! Just like the faggots the Nazis shoved in the ovens!

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Querelle

Quer 2This is one of Fassbinder’s few films shot in English. The film derives from Jean Genet’s book, although the author would be surprised to see a video arcade, decades before its invention, in this adaptation. But such anachronistic shocks (there are others) are as intention as Fassbinder’s revolutionary extremes, even for him, image and sound: as he states, on a title card in the opening credits, this is a film about Genet’s novel, not a mere pasteurisation. Fassbinder captures the fever-dream quality of Genet’s decadent prose poetry, through his impossibly garish lighting and bizarre sets (how many forts boast ten-foot-tall phalluses as both strategic defence barriers and ornamentation). But more than Genet, this picture is unmistakably Fassbinder.

Plot:

French sailor Querelle arrives in Brest and starts frequenting a strange whorehouse. He discovers that his brother Robert is the lover of the lady owner, Lysiane. Here, you can play dice with Nono, Lysiane’s husband : if you win, you are allowed to make love with Lysiane, if you lose, you have to make love with Nono… Querelle loses on purpose.

One day, Lysiane reads the tarot for her lover, Robert , and learns in the cards of his intense passion for his brother, Querelle. Querelle himself soon arrives, and the brothers enact a bizarre greeting halfway between a hug and a wrestling match. Querelle, it seems, is looking for partners in a drug deal; Robert points him in the right direction. An argument about the merits of sex between men soon leads Querelle to murder his fellow smuggler, Vic. Back at the whorehouse, Querelle loses on purpose to Nono and finds he has a taste for passive gay sex. Meanwhile, fellow sailor Gil, who looks exactly like Querelle’s brother (and is played by the same actor), murders one of his compatriots after the brute publicly impugns his manhood. Wanted by the police for both his own crime and Querelle’s, Gil goes on the run.

When Querelle deals drugs with Nono, he is reunited with his rivalrous brother, Robert – the current boytoy of Nono’s wife, Madame Lysiane (Jeanne Moreau). Lysiane is smitten by Querelle from the moment he enters the brothel. The ship’s captain, Seblon (Franco Nero), is also smitten by Querelle and delivers long erotic monologues into his tape recorder.

Origins:

This is a surrealistic adaptation of writer and thief Jean Genet’s novel Querelle de Brest by avant-garde German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder.

Ambience:

The very artificial set is always bathed in a warm red glow, and is dotted with castle towers that are, literally, shaped like penises. The hell-like atmosphere oozes homo-eroticism at every turn, and every character is defined by his sexuality. One gets the impression that Fassbinder was trying to depict his favourite wet dream on celluloid. While obviously the work of a once-brilliant artist, many incoherent scenes suggest that the director’s drug-use was taking its toll.

Part of the blame can be assigned to Genet’s novel, a work which does not lend itself easily towards cinematic adaptation. Attempts to infuse Genet’s poetic language into the film bogs the storyline down with title cards and intrusive narration. This even seeps into the dialogue. For example, Querelle whispers to Seblon that “afterwards I may rest across your thighs, as a pieta, and you will watch over me as Mary watches over the dead Jesus.” Adding to this aura of seriousness is a baritone choir dominating the soundtrack. The action in Querelle moves at a snail’s pace.

Visually, the late Brad Davis is perfect as Querelle. Davis was handsome, in a Montgomery Clift mode, while resembling rough trade. He spends most of the film wearing skin tight white clothes, his large hairy chest continually on display through a sweeping tank top. Almost every shot is a pose, like a Tom of Finland drawing that has come to life. It’s hard to judge his acting, or anyone’s for that matter, because the film is often badly dubbed. Franco Nero comes off the best in a movie filled with lifeless performances. Jeanne Moreau, a longtime diva of European cinema, resembles an old drag queen doing Bette Davis.

Moreau singing Oscar Wilde’s Ballad Of Reading Gaol. In a scene of repressed intimacy, the sound of dripping water conjures up a visceral likeness of lovemaking. Multiple voiceovers not only layer the story but openly invite us to view characters in a specific way. The religious or operatic connotations of an a cappella choir encourage a mythical reading beyond the merely human or specific.

Fassbinder’s images glow – and melt hetero movie mythology. He shoots within the labyrinthine walls, studded with penis-shaped edifices, of a highly artificial backlot set – decorated with vulgar graffiti and graphic Kama-Sutra-style etchings of sex acts. Such tactics, like the voice-over narration, the fade-to-white inter-titles, the Jean Genet epigraph, distance the spectator. Fassbinder harkens back to German Expressionist filmmaking and Brechtian Epic Theatre to bare the oppressive ideology determining narrative structures.

 This is Fassbinder’s sole film, and the only one by any filmmaker which comes to mind, featuring two distinct – and at times even combative – voice-over narrators; and you could even argue that there is yet a third narrative voice. This one appears at key moments, and consists of printed quotations which range from the classical historian Plutarch (in a moving passage about the honor of gay soldiers in the ancient world, who wanted to face their fellow soldiers/lovers as they died in battle – some countries today take a rather different view of same-sex oriented servicemembers) to Genet himself (in an actual manuscript page from Genet – which the “omniscient” voice-over narrator translates into English – in which he purports to be the actual Querelle: since Genet was both an artist and a professional con-man and thief, we need not take his confession too literally). Pasolini used a similar ‘bibliographic’ technique in his notorious last film, Salò, which was one of Fassbinder’s list of the ten greatest films ever made.

Religious imagery

Quer 3Rings feature a great deal, presumably for their religious connotations but also for the binding they represent cf. the recurring images of the seaman’s rope, chains, rosaries, pieces of clothing, blankets, and a whole series of repeated patterns by which Genet represents the binding together of men.

The dominant colour in QUERELLE is orange.  Orange is also the colour most commonly used to depict the god Bacchus (or, in the Greek pantheon Dionysus) who inter alia was the god of fertility.  As the mid-point between yellow and red, orange also represents the balance between spirit and libido.  Fassbinder sometimes darkens the shade of orange, indicating a shift towards the libido, or lust; sometimes it lightens, towards yellow, indicating divine love.

Another duality, this time black and white, is applied to Querelle’s personality as depicted through his clothes.  He is often seen in his white sailor’s uniform, representing innocence and purity, sometimes with his dark naval coat worn over it, and in one sequence is covered head to foot in coal dust, the primeval antithesis of white.

A frequent setting is decorated with vulgar graffiti and graphic Kama-Sutra-style etchings.

In Genet’s book, Lieutenant Seblon’s warship lies anchored in the Roads off Brest, and his longing for Georges Querelle mounts with each day; yet no sooner has the able-bodied seaman rebutted his advances on the grounds that he is suffering from a dose of clap, than the lieutenant’s vivid vision of ‘an ulcerated penis’ becomes instantly linked with that of ‘a guttering Easter candle to which five grains of incense had become encrusted.’ The passage is highly characteristic: the ideal Genet reader must have both a strong stomach and a taste for religious imagery that is heavily baroque. St Theresa of Avila’s delight when the angel plunged a golden dart into her and the assault left her aflame with Divine Love is an experience that Genet fully understands.

Querelle whispers to Seblon that “afterwards I may rest across your thighs, as a pieta, and you will watch over me as Mary watches over the dead Jesus.”

Earlier, a scene where a young man portrays Christ carrying his cross, leading a procession, is followed by the murder and blood-letting. Some sort of stonement?

On the last page, the madam of a brothel dreams of her lovers and sees them all united as one—`They is singing.’ Would it be too far-fetched to see in that use of is a development of the doctrine that in Christ ‘we are all one’?

 Plaudits or otherwise:

Critically derided even by many of Fassbinder’s admirers, Querelle earned a Golden Raspberry award for Worst “Original” Song for “Each Man Kills the Thing He Loves,” an Oscar Wilde poem set to music by Peer Raben and sung repeatedly by Jeanne Moreau.

One juror resigned after releasing the following statement: “I would love to make a personal statement. While being President of the Jury, I would love to express my disappointment in not having been able to convince my colleagues to place R.W. Fassbinder’s ‘Querelle’ among the winners. As a matter of fact, I’ve found myself alone in defending the movie. Nevertheless, I keep on thinking that, although controversial, R.W. Fassbinder’s final movie, want it or not, love it or hate it, will one day find its place in the history of cinema”.

one of the “gayest” films in cinema history

Critical opinions on the film differed. Andy Warhol told Fassbinder that it made him hard and The Advocate called it a “pretentious bore.” I, myself, have seen it several times over the last decade and I still don’t know what to make of it. Yet Querelle’s images have haunted me for most of my adult life. Love it or hate it, no viewer will ever forget

Made shortly before his death, Querelle was the film that Fassbinder considered his best.

Feminists have remarked how Fassbinder challenges stereotypical images of older women, for instance. Moreau, about 60 years of age at the time of this film, plays a strongly sexual woman.

At times there are almost Shakespearean touches. “He wrapped himself in prudence,

“He waited for the angel to strike.” The narrator is describing a murderer, just after the act. It prepares us for an Iago-like theme that will follow. This gritty, sometimes murderous backdrop of the sailors on shore leave also gives the non-gay viewer some respite.

The theme of murder is given a psychological depth as the murderer is viewed without ethical consideration: “Added to the moral solitude of the murderer comes the solitude of the artist, which can acknowledge no authority save that of another artist.”

Quer“No kissing,”

“I’m too fat!”

“You’ve destroyed me. You have mystical powers. They multiply infinitely.” You cannot look away.

Narrator: And humility can only be born of humiliation, otherwise it is nothing but vanity.

Lysiane: [singing] Each man kills the thing he loves!

Querelle: I’m no fairy!

“You got the same eyes. You got the same chops.”

That’s what other people say…but it isn’t true.
Querelle is a sailor.
Maybe it’s true.
And you love one another…

Just the opposite.
He’s our safety guarantee.
This is Querelle, my brother.
He has a deal for you.
He’s all right.

Cash.
Of course.
Querelle was frozen by Mario’s gaze.
More than indifferent…
Mario’s gaze and stance were glacial.

I’m Robert’s brother.
I know.
A penny for your thoughts, Querelle.
I acknowledge the existence of authority in Mario.
I note his objective gestures.

Querelle was not used to the idea that he was a monster.
A young man, he knew the terror of being alone…
caught in the world of the living.

It’s okay with me.
Perhaps love is a den of killers, and if this is true…
will Querelle draw me into it?
And I?
When the time comes for me to drown in my emotion for Querelle…

 

which seems to be his own will and his own destiny.
The scene we shall relate is a transposition of the event…
which revealed Querelle to us.
We can say that it is comparable to the Visitation.
Okay, you can go now.

Morning, Lieutenant.
Hello, Querelle.
I must say, you’re doing a very good job.
Without even telling me, you’ve offered to do another duty.

What worked? Your business deal? – That worked out fine too.
But I mean something else. I made it.
With Querelle?
That’s news to me.
I swear it.

Sometimes there’s something so female about him…
especially when he does one of those sweet, silly gestures.
But this Querelle is an okay guy.
Hi, Nono.
Let’s go outside.

I’ve become less of a disciplinarian.
My love makes me softer.
The more I love Querelle…
the more gentle and definite…
the sadder the woman in myself becomes…

because she cannot achieve fulfillment.
During one of these strange revelations…
defining my relationship with Querelle…
I think amidst all these sorrows and inner defeats…
“What’s the point?”

Querelle’s friendship for Gil developed to the brink of love.
Like himself, Gil had killed.
He was a little Querelle for whom Querelle maintained…
a strange feeling of respect and curiosity.
As though he was standing before the foetus of a baby Querelle.

And will you? – Yes.
In some obscure way…
Querelle understood that love is voluntary.
You have to want it.
When you don’t love men…

even if only at the moment you’re fucking.
So if he was to love Gil, he would have to give up his passivity.
Querelle tried.
My friend.
What a shame we can’t stay together forever.

will be on the train that leaves for Bordeaux at 4:20.
Ciao.
But loved by Querelle…
I would be loved by every sailor in France…
because Querelle is a compendium of all their masculine and naive virtues.

Then I’ll be glad to come along with you.
Let’s go.
Querelle was now Lysiane’s lover.
The excitement she felt thinking about the identity of the two brothers…
exasperated her to such a degree that she felt lost.

Some with a flattering word
The coward does it with a kiss
Careful, Querelle!
If you lose your footing, you can sometimes fall very far.
Thanks, Inspector.

cradling a dead Jesus.
That’s the guy who shot me. I recognize him.
Querelle, finally!
Why did you keep me waiting so long?
You want to hurt me?

I know now…why I feel so abandoned.
Querelle’s inner harmony was indestructible…
because it was sealed in that heaven of heavens…
where beauty unites with beauty.

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Behind the Candelabra

BTC 2We’ve been trying out film nights at the request of some members.

We thought that both Liberace and Scott were damaged.

Before Elvis, before Elton John, Madonna and Lady Gaga, there was Liberace: virtuoso pianist, outrageous entertainer and flamboyant star of stage and television. A name synonymous with showmanship, extravagance and candelabras, he was a world-renowned performer with a flair that endeared him to his audiences and created a loyal fan base spanning his 40-year career. Liberace lived lavishly and embraced a lifestyle of excess both on and off stage. In summer 1977, handsome young stranger Scott Thorson walked into his dressing room and, despite their age difference and seemingly different worlds, the two embarked on a secretive five-year love affair. This film takes a behind-the-scenes look at their tempestuous relationship – from their first meeting backstage at the Las Vegas Hilton to their bitter and public break-up

It takes us from the couple’s ecstatic first meeting backstage in Las Vegas in 1976, right through to Scott having to be ejected, with zero dignity, from his kept-man apartment some years later.

Scott confides in Liberace that he is bisexual because he is also attracted to women. Liberace is sympathetic, informing him that he wanted and tried to love women, but was exclusively attracted to men. He relates a story of a “divine healing” in which a “messenger” informed him that God still loved him.

In 1980, Liberace’s mother, whom he always adored, dies and he holds a funeral. Scott is troubled by Liberace’s lack of grief over his mother’s death by claiming that he is “finally free.”

Thorson’s increasing drug abuse and Liberace’s interest in younger men, including dancer Cary James, creates a rift that ultimately destroys their relationship. When Liberace begins visiting pornographic peep shows and suggests that they each see other people, Thorson becomes upset. Thorson retains an attorney to seek his financial share of the property by suing Liberace for over $100,000,000 in palimony. As a result, Liberace ends their formal partnership and involves himself with his most recent, and much younger, “assistant”. In 1984, Thorson’s palimony lawsuit starts where he gives details about his five-year romance with the entertainer, while Liberace flatly denies any sexual relationship.

A little later, Thorson receives a phone call from Liberace telling him that he is very sick with what is later revealed to be AIDS and that he would like Thorson to visit him again. Thorson agrees and drives to Liberace’s retreat house in Palm Springs, where he and Liberace have one last, emotional conversation. Liberace dies a few months later in February 1987. Thorson attends Liberace’s funeral, in which he imagines seeing Liberace performing one last time with his traditional flamboyance, before being lifted to Heaven with a stage harness.

Camp and kitsch, locked in a preposterously furnished palace-cum-prison which is like an anti-gravity capsule where they float around in their own neuroses and dependencies. The fat gold rings he wears around almost every finger form an interesting currency in Liberace’s dysfunctional world: he challenges the audience to admit he can play brilliantly despite this chunky jewellery; he loves giving rings to his conquests, who they hang on to them as a form of capital. One disgraced ex-lover is forced to hand his back.

The candelabra conceals nothing, in the literal sense – unlike Liberace’s wig. The great man doesn’t have secrets from us, the audience.

At the funeral Mass at the film’s end, the congregation’s response to the priest’s opening liturgical greeting “The Lord be with You” is ..”and with your spirit”. This is a well known change made recently. The funeral takes place in 1987 where the liturgical response would still have been, “And also with you.”

Liberace: [Final love song] Why do I love you? I love you not only for what you are, But for what I am when I’m with you I love you not only for what you have made of yourself, But for what you are making of me. I love you for ignoring the possibilities of the fool in me, And for accepting the possibilities of the good in me. Why do I love you? I love you for closing your eyes to the discords in me, And for adding to the music in me by worshipful listening. I love you for helping me to construct of my life Not a tavern but a temple I love you because you have done so much to make me happy. You have done it without a word, without a touch, without a sign You have done it by just being yourself Perhaps after all, that is what love means And that is why I love you.

BTCLiberace: I have an eye for new and refreshing talent.

Scott Thorson: You have an eye for new and refreshing dick.

Scott Thorson: I’m bisexual.

Liberace: Well which half likes women? I haven’t met that half yet.

Liberace: I hate my life sometimes, I really do.

Scott Thorson: I can’t believe you’re so Catholic.

Liberace: Devout.

Liberace: What a story. It’s got everything but a fire at the orphanage.

Scott Thorson: [angrily eyeballing Cary James] There you are, you cock-sucking tenor fuck.

Scott Thorson: [on the phone] You scumbag piece of shit! Fairy! You fucking queen cocksucker! How dare you? How fucking dare you, Lee? I could kill you! I could fucking kill you!

Scott Thorson: Being somebody’s boyfriend, I didn’t picture my life like this. I wanted to be a veterinarian.

Liberace: You want to help animals? Pick up the dog shit.

Liberace: All of a sudden we’re sounding like a gay Lucy and Ricky. “Oh, Ricky, you wouldn’t fuck me up the ass if you loved me!”

Scott Thorson: Why am I the Lucy?

Liberace: Because I’m the bandleader with the nightclub act.

Liberace: [watching himself on TV] Oh my Christ, I look like my father! I look like my father in drag!

Liberace: I want to be everything to you, Scott. I want to be father, brother, lover, best friend.

Liberace: I love to give the people a good time.

Carlucci: Pig?

Scott Thorson: What?

Carlucci: Pig in a blanket, do you want a pig in a blanket?

Liberace: I don’t want to see you depressed. When you have a sad face, I get sad.

Liberace: [after Scott passes out at an adult video store] I’m not ready for apologies, OK?

Scott Thorson: Apology? Fuck you! You are a well known star! Are you out of your mind, going to a place like that? I mean, what if someone would have recognized you? What if they had gone to the press?

Liberace: When a London paper said I was gay, I took them to court, and I won that law suit. They retracted the story and they paid for it.

Scott Thorson: Only because they didn’t have a witness seeing you with a room full of dildos, with your dick hanging out of a glory hole! Are you out of your fucking mind?

Carlucci: [goes outside to deliver Scott some food] He made you a pesto panini.

Scott Thorson: Oh. Did you, uh… did you bring my Fresca? [Carlucci says nothing, looks disapprovingly at him] What?

Carlucci: [sighs] Here’s what’s gonna happen. You listening? You think you’re so hot and sexy with your hard ass and that bisexual bullshit. You know how many there have been? Bobby, Hans, Chase, oh and some country boy stripper who was so dumb, he wore his G-string backwards. He got rid of all of them, but I’m still here. And one day, Lee is gonna call Seymour and he’s gonna tell him to get rid of you.

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In the Name Of “W imie…” (original title)- Dir Malgorzata Szumowska

ITNOWe’ve been trying out film nights at the request of some members.

Adam knows that he desires men and that his embrace of the priesthood has been a flight from his own sexuality. When he meets Dynia; the strange and taciturn son of a simple rural family; Adam’s self-imposed abstinence becomes a heavy burden.

He has a special gift for helping troubled teenage boys, which his superiors value greatly. His homosexuality has never led to anything remotely inappropriate with a boy (or with a man, for that matter), but he is periodically transferred in order to keep even rumours from interfering with his very valuable ministry. Most recently he was moved from Warsaw to an isolated rural parish with a small work-home for boys on furlough from reformatories.

He works elbow to elbow with his even sterner lay assistant Michal, and there is no question about their earning the boys’ respect:  they command it. The wildness of the place is described in a tense opening scene showing how small children mercilessly torment a simple-minded youth. An atmosphere of danger and violence holds the whole film in thrall, and against this backdrop Father Adam’s personal drama emerges.

His first temptation comes, appropriately enough, from an attractive woman named Eve, Michal’s dissatisfied wife, who attempts to seduce him without success.  His witty reply (“I’m already taken”) seems to refer to his vow of celibacy, but gradually it becomes clear that he’s attracted not to women, but to the youths around him. One in particular strikes a chord, the strange, silent Lukasz whose long hair and beard give him the look of a teenage Jesus. In an eerie primeval scene in a vast cornfield, the priest and the boy play hide-and-seek, calling to each other with ape-like howls.  Rather than give in to his sexual longings, however, Adam returns to his old vice of drinking, which culminates in the film’s sole comic scene as he dances, dead drunk, to a pumped-up rock track, with a portrait of Pope Benedict XVI for a partner. Though there are not really that many ways such a tale could end, the screenplay keeps all options open until it settles on a dignified finale with a small-scale surprise.

In a village in rural Poland his work is with teenage boys with behavioural problems who are constantly fighting and shouting abuse. A local, bored housewife, the wife of Fr Adam’s co-worker, Michal, makes a play for him but he rejects her advances, stating that he is “already spoken for”, a reference no doubt to his vow of priestly celibacy. His eyes, however, are drawn to the Christ-like figure of Lukasz, known to his friends as Humpty, a strange, withdrawn and possibly autistic youth, the son of a local family, whom Adam resuscitates after the young man, who does not swim, gets into difficulties at a local lake. After this, the bloodied Lukasz turns to the priest for help after getting involved in a fight with other boys. In an obvious reference to depictions of the Pietá, the young man is seen draped across the lap of the priest after having had his wounds washed.

The appearance of a newcomer to the centre, Blondie, who passes knowing glances in the direction of Adam, is the catalyst for change. Not least because the priest finds him In flagrante delicto with another boy who previously had confessed that he had had oral sex with a youth at a party he attended while on a weekend pass  The penance recommended was that the young man should run for at least an hour every day, and to regard it is a form of prayer. Explaining perhaps why Fr Adam is seen several times throughout the film running in the local woods. He’s not training for a marathon but dealing with his demons. Blondie condemns the priest as an old faggot to a group of the boys and, in time, Michal comes to the same conclusion and secures an appointment with the local bishop.

Director Malgośka Szumowska and her co-writer/cinematographer Michal Englert eschew a sensational approach, with no interest in condemning their tortured protagonist as a criminal; “I’m not a pedophile, I’m a faggot,” he weeps in a confessional video chat with his sister. (They do hedge their bets by casting Kościukiewicz, an actor in his mid 20s who looks his age, as the object of infatuation.) While the setting and austere interiors are expressively grim, In the Name Of could have used more nervy scenes like the one where Adam, in the wake of discovering two students noisily fucking, goes on a vodka bender and dances furiously with a portrait of Pope Benedict. The brutish physicality of the teens, even before they begin to gossip about their minder’s sexuality, is germane to this man’s world, whether Adam is doing call-and-response ape grunts with Humpty in a cornfield, and even in the juvenilia of a weenie roast (one kid has to blurt, “My sausage is on fire!”). But the priest’s obsession with early-morning distance running as sublimation, and Szumowska’s too-frequent use of buzzing flies in the priest’s house as some kind of symbol of decay, contribute to an overwrought miserabilism that inhibits any larger social significance. Up to its final shot, which interpreted narrowly could feed malevolent theories about the priesthood as an all-but-official refuge for self-loathing gays, the film is almost as confused about the moral quandaries of its characters as they are.

A scene in which, after visiting the lake at Lukasz’s request for swimming lessons, the two of them pursue each other in a field of maize, playing ‘hide and seek’, while acting and sounding like chimpanzees, is a metaphor that continues to elude me. Not so the final scene where the camera focuses on a large building, a seminary, finally coming to rest on a group of becassocked seminarians. One of the seminarians turns from his companions to look straight at the camera; it is the face of Lukasz. So the cycle repeats itself, another lamb to the slaughter.

‘There is the spark of holiness in each of us’, says Father Adam.

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Imagine: Jeanette Winterson – My Monster and Me

imagineWinterson and Yentob toured the streets of her youth and she showed him how she used to curl up on the doorstep of her house on the many occasions Mrs Winterson threw her out for the night, and the kind of Mini she lived in when she was finally thrown out for good at 16 after Mrs Winterson’s attempts to exorcise Jeanette’s homosexuality had failed. Then they went on, as she did, to Oxford, with nothing to support her but the inwardly digested contents of Accrington public library and a passion for more freedom, more knowledge, more girlfriends, more everything – though her early training persisted among the dreaming spires and she still automatically hid her book under her pillow if anyone knocked at her study door.

I think that Jeanette is still not at peace with herself.

We have discussed her books here and here

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