Tag: drama

Ma Belle, My Beauty Review — Poly Dyke Drama

Ma Belle, My Beauty Review — Poly Dyke Drama

For the first time ever, Autostraddle is at Sundance (at least virtually)! Drew Gregory is coming to you daily for the next week with all the LGBTQ+ movies and panels you’ve always wished you had access to from one of the most prestigious film festivals in the world. Follow her on Twitter for more.

Before I knew the word polyamory, I knew French cinema. Some of the earliest examples of queerness I saw on-screen were in French movies about throuples where the queerness was secondary. Movies like Jules and Jim, Les Biches, and The Dreamers presented throuples where heterosexuality was prioritized but not exclusive. And my baby queer-self latched onto these works and their suggestion of alternate relationships — no matter how flawed.

I can imagine a version of Marion Hill’s debut feature Ma Belle, My Beauty reminiscent of those films — a version where the man and heterosexuality are prioritized and the queerness is secondary. Thankfully, this is not that version. In fact, in this film, the man is something of an afterthought.

Ma Belle, My Beauty is about an American woman named Bertie (Idella Johnson) who has recently moved to a villa in the south of France with her French husband, Fred (Lucien Guignard). She’s a singer, but lately she’s stopped singing. Her French is bad and she feels totally isolated — she spends her days drifting around their broken pool, her nights awake in solitude. Desperate to pull her out of this depression, Fred invites Lane (Hannah Pepper-Cunningham), the former third member of their relationship, to the villa. Bertie doesn’t know about this invitation and Lane’s arrival forces them all to confront the past.

This movie doesn’t just take place in the south of France. It Takes Place In The South Of France. Lauren Guiteras’ cinematography is lush as she captures the beautiful scenery, the beautiful actors, and the endless barrage of sensory pleasures. Wine and cheese and olives and fish are captured with an artistry beyond what you’d even find in a prestige cooking show. Regardless of how you feel about the characters and their conflicts, simply getting to live in this well-realized setting is such a treat.

The actors have an easy energy with one another that honors their character’s complicated past and the details of their relationships are revealed with a nice subtlety. The movie works best when the film’s central women are playing power games with one another — each trying to win the desire of the other while pretending they couldn’t care less. All the while Fred is just sort of floating around totally confused with what his wife wants or how they can proceed with their life. Again, this is not about him. Even if they are in his parents’ house.

The power struggle between Lane and Bertie eventually manifests in the film’s most frustrating aspect. At a party, feeling rejected by Bertie, Lane begins a flirtation with an Israeli woman named Noa. Bertie mentions that Noa was in the IDF and served longer than she had to — she then asks if Lane is still doing anti-occupation work and/or boycotting a certain brand of hummus. Lane doesn’t really give an answer nor does she let whatever “politics” she has get in the way of her new crush.

Noa is played by Sivan Noam Shimon who some of you might recognize from the queer coming-of-age movie Blush. Like in that film, Shimon has a captivating on-screen presence and I understand why Hill wanted to cast her. But the movie’s lack of clarity around her character leaves it politically and emotionally muddled. It’s not that Lane’s lack of moral fortitude is unrealistic per say, but it certainly didn’t endear me to her. It also never felt clear if Hill wanted me to see Lane’s interest in Noa as a betrayal of values born out of insecurity and desperation, or if that was just me projecting my own beliefs. I was left feeling like, well, I’ve made some mistakes in my life but at least I never got so sad about my ex that I fucked someone in the IDF. And maybe that’s how I was supposed to feel! It certainly would fit Lane’s flawed character. But, if that’s the case, I wish it was clearer and that the subject matter was handled with the seriousness it deserves.

But Noa’s arrival does shake up Lane and Bertie’s relationship adding a fourth to the already complicated three. It’s here the film shows the endless possibilities of a cinema truly open to polyamory. Love triangles — love quadrangles — are so much more delicious when multiple people can be involved. Yes, we need more bisexual and polyamorous representation for political reasons, but we also need it for better stories!

This is very clearly a movie made by a queer person. That’s evident in the relationship dynamics and the costuming, the casting and the gaze. Look, when a character takes a strap-on out of her backpack in the middle of a sex scene you know you’re in good hands. It’s that authenticity that elevates the film.

Authentic stories about polyamorous relationship are still all too rare, especially ones that prioritize the experiences of queer women and non-binary people, especially ones with a queer Black woman protagonist. So while the film is not without its flaws and missteps, it’s hard not to be grateful to enter its world of sex and feelings and food and nature. I’m proud to say that despite not leaving my house for a year I’ve still managed to create my fair share of dyke drama. But none of it happened in the south of France! And it looks way more fun in the south of France!

Zachary Quinto joins podcast drama exploring Harvard ‘gay purge’

Boys in the Band star Zachary Quinto

Zachary Quinto is to produce and star in a new audio drama podcast shedding light on Harvard University’s attempts to purge gay students.

The Boys in the Band star is set to delve back into queer culture with upcoming scripted podcast series Secret Court, which tells the true story of a purge of gay students from the Harvard class of 1920.

After gay Harvard sophomore Cyril Wilcox took his own life, the university had instigated a secret court led by the university’s president and deans, which dedicated itself to eradicating rumoured “homosexual activity” among the student population.

The investigation, which was only exposed in 2002, saw the university move to purge eight students, a graduate and an assistant professor, erasing all record of their links with Harvard and severing all association with them.

The purge came 30 years before the 1950 ‘Lavender Scare,’ which saw the US government attempt to uncover gay people working in government and dismiss them from the service.

Zachary Quinto pays tribute to ‘contributions and sacrifices’ of persecuted gay students.

Penned by The Artist’s Wife scribe Abdi Nazemian and based on research from writer Rafael Moraes, Secret Court will draw on newly-uncovered documents 100 years on, including personal correspondence found in the Harvard Archives.

Quinto said in a press release: “I’m honoured to lend my voice and help amplify the story of these promising young members of the LGBTQ+ community, who were marginalized and sidelined due to the social intolerance of their day.

“A hundred years later, I am grateful to their contributions and sacrifices, and recognize that I stand on their shoulders today.”

Zachary Quinto attends the 2019 Tony Awards
Zachary Quinto attends the 2019 Tony Awards (Getty/Taylor Hill)

Secret Court will ‘let the voices of silenced men finally be heard’.

Daniel Turcan and Johnny Galvin of podcast incubator Vespucci Group said: “We are honoured to bring this true story to a contemporary audience and let the voices of young men, silenced for 100 years, be finally heard.

“At the centennial anniversary of the events at Harvard 1920, this project also provides an important opportunity to explore the ways in we’ve progressed as a society, but also the places where we’ve fallen short in terms of queer expression and freedom.”

Alia Tavakolian of production company Spoke Media added: “This is an important story that needs to be told.

“Brigham Mosley, the creative lead, has done a brilliant job of drawing out a beautiful narrative. Yes, there is tragedy and pain here, but there is also joy, happiness, and inspiration.

“And we’re thrilled to create a piece that showcases all the bravery and vitality of these tremendous young men who chose to pursue community and understanding despite living in a world that attempted to wipe out their existence.”