Articulate career analyses of five multitalented, openly gay male film directors.
Former Variety critic and film professor Levy (Vincente Minnelli: Hollywood’s Dark Dreamer, 2009, etc.) profiles a quintet of leading gay cinematic impresarios to uncover their creative motivations and their idiosyncratic sensibilities as filmic “outsiders.” The author explores each director’s biography with intimate components from their budding interests in film, the chronological trajectory of their oeuvres, and through vivid cross-comparisons. Levy delves deep into both the directors’ histories and singular bodies of work, culling information from hours of in-person interviews and exploratory research, alongside his own perspectives, creating a heady mix of memoir and opinion. Of the five featured, three directors are American: Gus Van Sant, John Waters, and Todd Haynes. Levy paints Kentucky-born Van Sant as spontaneous, with a post-Milk (2008) career that has sporadically floundered. Though especially true for eccentric cult-icon Waters, whom Levy dubs “a filmmaker of outrage and gleeful vulgarity,” each man established himself within the first decades as a filmmaker and continually suffered from a lack of financial backing. The author distinguishes Haynes, the group’s youngest director, as an experimental film producer creating a “masterful mise-en-scène of middle-class suburbia” complemented by complex characters. From Europe, Levy features Spaniard Pedro Almódovar, truly an actor’s director recognized for his attention to desire, passion, and fearless sexuality, and Terence Davies, whose British childhood greatly influences his depiction of dogmatic religion. Each profile engagingly holds readers’ attention, and as a collective, they bespeak the raw power of creative gay voices creating genre-straddling, often taboo material. For general readers, Levy’s analyses may seem overthought and scholarly, while die-hard fans will revel in their inclusive, masterful insights and juicy details. Tethering the pentad together is the author’s respectful assessments within a sampler he hopes will inspire moviegoers “to see familiar films again in a different light.”
A vastly intelligent, comprehensively procured treat for film buffs, gay or otherwise.