On episode 35 of Gay Fairfax, I reviewed Now You See It: Studies on Lesbian and Gay Film by Richard Dyer for the regular "gay book beat" segment. What follows is a transcript of that review, delivered orally on a program that first aired on Fairfax Channel 10 on October 7, 1991.
I'm Rick Sincere with gay book beat.
We'll be looking at exciting and unusual books by, for, and about gay men and lesbians.
Today's book: Now You See It: Studies on Lesbian and Gay Film by British film scholar Richard Dyer.
About ten years ago, Vito Russo wrote a book called The Celluloid Closet, which examined the portrayals of gay men and lesbians in mainstream films from America and elsewhere.
Russo really did not look behind the scenes, however. This is what Dyer does.
Dyer looks at films made by and for gay men and lesbians, that is, gay filmmakers making films for specifically gay audiences.
This is something that wasn't really easy for Russo to look at when he wrote his book ten years ago but with archival material becoming available, Dyer has been able to unearth a number of films that are very significant in historical perspective.
Dyer starts by looking at the films of Weimar Germany right after the First World War.
One very famous film of that period was called Different from the Others ("Anders als die Andern"), which starred Conrad Veidt, a matinee idol who became famous in our country as the wicked Nazi major in Casablanca.
Veidt portrayed a gay man who is being blackmailed and that film was not only very popular in Weimar Germany, it eventually became banned.
At the end of the Weimar period was a film made for lesbians which also has become quite famous, Mȁdchen in Uniform.
Between these two films of 1920 and 1933, Weimar Germany produced the bulk of films for gay audiences. They set the trend for the rest of the world – England, France, Sweden, America – and set standards for film making from then on.
The lesbian and gay films that Dyer examines include Genet's classics Un chant d'amour and Possession, which revolutionized gay cinema with their exciting, vibrant imagery and dramatic style.
Dyer's book is an important contribution to film studies and gay literature. I recommended very highly.