What better way to celebrate the opening of Flare at BFI today than continuing our LGBT coverage of their best movies. With the brilliant Hayley previously looking at Gay and Lesbian movies, this time she ponders over the best bisexual films.
Christopher Honore’s musical is a beautiful story of love in its many forms, embodying the spirit of the French New Wave. It is the story of Ishmael, a twenty-something in a menage-a-trois with his girlfriend Julie, and his workmate Alice. But when fate devastatingly intervenes, and a young man named Erwann shows up, infatuated with Ishmael, everything changes. There’s quite a lot of sadness in this film, but the overall affect is joyous, with Les Chansons d’Amour having that infectious, zest for life quality reminiscent of musicals like Singin’ in the Rain. The songs, by Alex Beaupain are incredible, performed with a great deal of feeling by the cast. And what a cast! Gregoire Leprince-Ringuet is lovely as the love-striken Erwann, but the stand-outs are Louis Garrel as Ishmael, and Chiara Mastrolani as Julie’s heartbroken sister, Jeanne.
Velvet Goldmine is a lot of things that shouldn’t work together thrown into a huge pot of glitter and coming out looking fantastic. On the surface, it’s a sort-of biopic of David Bowie, only using fictional characters instead. It’s structure is based on Citizen Kane. At the same time, it’s the story of Christian Bale’s young glam rock fan Arthur discovering himself. It’s also the story of two men (Jonathan Rhys Meyers as the Bowie-esque Brian Slade, and Ewan McGregor’s Curt Wild, a combination of Iggy Pop and Lou Reed) falling for each other and tearing each other apart. It’s also kind-of a musical. So much is going on here, but it works. The vibrant, colourful glam rock era is contrasted well with the greys of 1984, where the adult Arthur is trying to discover what became of the reclusive Slade, following the on-stage assassination of his character “Maxwell Demon”, and remembering his discover of his own sexual identity. The main cast are all great, rounded out by Eddie Izzard’s money-hungry manager and especially Toni Collete’s turn as the Angie Bowie figure, Mandy Slade, just as sexually experimental as her husband, and, like Curt, left behind by the mystery of his disappearance.
In order to represent bisexuality in cinema, many films present these characters in threesomes. While this may reinforce the stereotype of bisexuals having no concept of monogamy, few play the tiresome trope as well as Y Tu Mama Tambien. In it, two very close best friends are attracted to the same older woman. Both have sexual encounters with her, but it's when they have their menage a trois that the woman helps the boys realize their sexual attraction to each other.
This legendary crime drama from director Sidney Lumet stars Al Pacino as a bisexual crook and Chris Sarandon as his pre-op trans wife. As a result, I was torn on whether to include Dog Day Afternoon here, or in the upcoming trans top 10. But it is truly Pacino’s film, earning its place here. Pacino’s Sonny was a new kind of anti-hero for a changing time, and the continuing popularity shows only reflects its classic status.
Shortbus is notable for its un-simulated sex scenes, but should be notable for its honest and frank depiction of human sexuality. Following a group of New Yorkers involved in underground gatherings, we meet a variety of gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans characters and follow the stories of their love and sex lives. But at the centre is Sofia, a married sex therapist who is unable to achieve orgasm, at least until she meets dominatrix Severin. Also notable is the presence of singer Jay Brannan, as one third of a gay threesome.
Cabaret is loosely based on the Berlin novels of legendary gay writer, Christoper Isherwood. Starring Liza Minnelli as Sally Bowles, it is a classic of musical cinema. The bisexuality element comes when it is revealed that both Sally and her lover Brian have been having a sexual relationship with rich playboy Max. But amongst the outstanding musical numbers and the love lives of the lead characters is the disturbing backdrop of approaching Nazi oppression, perfectly encapsulating the fear Isherwood himself witnessed.
Sunday Bloody Sunday stars Murray Head (brother of Anthony) as a young, bisexual artist named Bob Elkin, and his relationships with both a female professional (Glenda Jackson), and a male, Jewish doctor (Peter Finch). From Midnight Cowboy director John Schlesinger, the most interesting element of the story is the fact that both of his lovers are aware of each other, and accept their love triangle for fear of losing the man who helps them escape the difficulties of their own lives.
Starring Liam Neeson, this is the biopic of Alfred Kinsey, who developed the Kinsey scale of sexuality. Kinsey’s research was the first to show that sexuality is fluid, and this film, while only a modest box-office success, was critically loved for bringing such an important aspect of human sexuality to life on screen. Neeson, and Oscar nominee Laura Linney, are both stunning.
Henry and June, notable for being the only Oscar-nominated film to receive an NC-17 rating, is the biographical story of French author Anais Nin, and her relationships with a married couple, Henry and June Miller. An aid, unsatisfied with her marriage to Hugh, has an affair with Henry (around the time he was writing Tropic of Cancer) while also pursuing June. Starring Uma Thurman, Fred Ward, Richard E Grant, and Maria de Medeiros as Nin, Henry and June is both sensual and sexual.
Frida is the biopic of surrealist painter Frida Kahlo, played by Salma Hayek in an Oscar-nominated turn. Facing a difficult relationship with Diego Rivera (Alfred Molina), the pair engage in a series of affairs, with bisexual Frida sleeping with both men and women, at one point even sleeping with the same woman as Rivera. Also focusing on Frida's communism and relationship with Leon Trotsky, Frida is a vivid, larger-than-life biopic reflecting her own personality and work.