the writing herein is dense and therefore meant to be read more than once
Politics and Film, Week 2-3 Essay Review #1
THE CELLULOID CLOSET The documentary, The Celluloid Closet [Epstein, Friedman, 1995], is about the history and change in the genre of film that displays some sort of homosexuality, starting with the very beginning of film many decades ago. This film has many virtues, but the most remarkable one, which dominates this writing and is treated in some detail herein, is how exceptional an historical survey it is. Overall, the biggest visible theme of this work is its inspirational bearing out and making clear that the core nature of homosexuals' efforts inwardly, but especially outwardly in society, is to attain freedom, either through the negative such as suffering while in the closet, or the positive of having a full life despite the difficulties of gay orientation. This aspect of the film is present throughout in the mind of just about any viewer and harks to actor Anthony Hopkins' dramatic statement in Amistad [Speilberg, 2001], a parallel drama about a group of Africans that seek deliverance from the racism of the 19th century – it harks to Hopkin's inspirational statement that slavery is not a part of the natural state of man, but instead that human nature is much more, and very much, about the search for “Freedom.”
An example of this Spirit that dominates the documentary is the incorporation of interviews with actors like Tom Hanks, Susan Sarandon, Harvey Fierstein, and Antonio Banderas in all their wonderful charisma. And that's not to mention that not several, but all, of the interviewees are articulate, intelligent, insightful, and devoted to some form of Freedom, and that they are not only just “nice” all around, but that some of them, even males, are sexy. Along those lines of positive influence, too, is the successful injection of a bit of humor in the film [in any one of the several dozen featured pictures], as when the scene carries through a moment in a gym where a bunch of male bodybuilders pay no attention to a gorgeous woman that is present, a play on the macho male-nature archetype. The film is also fun because of its display of many black and white movies and their several famous actors from the origins of the movies, like Charlie Chaplin and Paul Newman – these appearances, among others, being of differing natures and of visual sophistication for the documentary's viewer as well – another virtue of the film.
But not only does the film cover black and whites that have some creative appearance or moment of homosexuality, it exhibits a thorough and complete covering throughout of the grand majority of developments of these appearances as they occurred in the real life history of film. For example, early on after the birth of the motion picture, when the Vatican denounced those appearances and in reaction movie writers and producers, and even Hollywood itself, learned to play by the rules and, with carefulness, began to “make movies between the lines,” a point of history that several of the interviewees speaks on – when Hollywood did this despite the fact that, like life, you “can't keep homosexuality out of the movies,” which in turn is a point found universally reaffirmed by human intuition; furthermore this carefulness became reality despite that one of the very natures, even functions, of film is to be a mirror of life. For two examples, the appearance of the first pornographic movie that became famous, Deep Throat [Damiano, 1972], with actress Linda Lovelace, which is unfortunately not covered in this documentary, and, for example, the subsequent beginning of the gay liberation movement in 1969. Another instance of this mirror effect, one that was witnessed by movie goers earlier on, is that insecure gay men, perhaps especially the confused, young kind, they learned from the movies “how to go to a restaurant,” “how to act around women” and even, how to dress, as another interviewee reflects.
A landmark development in movies that include these unique moments that occurred around when society was changing and carrying itself into the time of gay liberation was when movie personnel began to ask, how do we “dramatize” sex, including gay sex, without making any mistakes? It was then that an important change began to occur: in his Boston Globe article entitled, “Telling the Tale of Pornstar Linda Lovelace,” written in 2013, journalist Christopher Wallenburg observes that finally, filmmakers “just wanted to make [appearances of the theme] credible, so that an audience would be intrigued by them, and would think about them, and start to talk about them.” Interviewee actor Harvey Fierstein makes a point that is along these lines when he comments that, he prefers more exposure rather than less, even negative, exposure for the cause. A bit further along during this generation's developments, Wallenberg comments that Hollywood at last came to want to “show [lesbians'] psychology and shifting perspectives.”
Celluloid covers some of such groundbreaking evolutionary events which then began to usher in the appearance of gays in other forms of human expression as well as in movies. In her New York Times FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW article, “What if Butch and Sundance Had Kissed at the End?”  journalist Janet Maslin, who adds additional comments on top of her piece's review of Celluloid, discusses the “evolution of the gay male novel” that first started to appear in 1978 when the modern, liberal status quo of homosexuality was beginning to take hold – like writer Vito Russo's book, The Celluloid Closet , on which this documentary is based. Interviewees in Celluloid also in passing dicuss such change, as with regard to TV shows like “The Bob Crane Show,” 1975, and “The Corner Bar,” in 1972-73. It was made clear by many of our documentary's commentaries that, no doubt, all of the above constituted big steps toward the present, now that controversial movies like The Pelican Brief and Brokeback Mountain are allowed on the big screen despite semi-graphic content. A further example of change toward gay liberation appears in the New York Times article, “Out of the Closet, Onto the Bookshelf” , in which the gay journalist Edmund White comments that now “gay literature is healthy and flourishing like never before.” White also wrote books featuring the topic of homosexuality, like The Faber Anthology of Gay Fiction .
Above all, what this student truly retained with regard to lasting impressions, knowledge, and memory of learning done during this piece's writing process is that this intense and multi-dimensional movie, The Celluloid Closet – that it represents the anguish, vulnerability, emotional over-extendedness, fear, and other challenging emotions that are felt by homosexuals, particularly gay men. That is, what is learned is that the Suffering done by these struggling people is unjust; the keyword of these psycho-emotional phenomena comes down to one phenomenon, the completion of their Needs. The very appearance and great charisma of the mentioned Susan Sarandon, Tom Hanks, Antonio Banderas, and Harvey Fierstein, who play the roles of only a few types of challenged gay characters, and who enthusiastically speak at length during Celluloid's interviews – these actors' Words and Presence speak for themselves. What gays deserve is complete relief, thorough help, and, as Anthony Hopkins comments in his above-cited movie scene from Amistad – just like blacks in the larger world of America and the Western hemisphere today – as Hopkins spoke, homosexuals deserve genuine “Freedom.”