Sydney Film Festival 2015 – 70’s Disco-scene, Gay Russia & BDSM – Oh My!

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It’s almost that time of year again – the Sydney Film Festival 2015 runs from 3-14 June 2015. The festival is a great way to experience films that aren’t usually released in mainstream cinemas. And this year’s line-up includes quite a few LGBTIQ themed films. Three of these are of particular interest as they all feature themes of sexual repression, a hot topic with all that is happening in the world at the moment in relation to the rights of people of differing sexualities and genders.

 

54: The Director’s Cut

The first of these, 54: The Director’s Cut, featuring Mike Myers and Ryan Phillippe, is the director’s cut of a film originally released in 1998. 54The film is set in the late 1970’s in New York at the infamous club Studio 54 which was owned by Steve Rubell – a gay man. The movie follows Shane, a hot bisexual man who uses his looks to get a job at the club and then gets caught up in the scene – dancing, sex, cocaine and morally ambiguous characters. Originally the movie was released with over half an hour of cuts and some reshoots that destroyed the writer-director’s, Mark Christopher’s, vision of a representation of the hedonistic extremes of the clubbing scene in the disco era. And, sadly, the movie was now ‘less gay’. It’s now been 17 years since the movie was butchered and released to negative reviews but now film festivals, such as The Sydney Film Festival, can finally show the world the proudly gay, hedonistic and more historically accurate vision of the disco scene. The movie itself doesn’t hold back from showing us everything from the black and white to the many shades of grey between. Sadly there is a difference in quality between the original and restored scenes but it doesn’t detract – you’ll probably have fun noticing how much sex, drugs and all things gay were cut from these restored scenes that resemble VHS quality. Now that’ll truly take you back to the 1990’s when 54 was originally released!

Eisenstein in Guanajuato

The second film is one that has some Russians up in arms – which is no surprise as its gay. The film,  Eisenstein in Guanajuato, is a biopic about the famous gay Russian director Sergei Eisenstein and his 10-day affair with a man on a visit to Mexico in 1931. Eisenstein In GuanajuatoThis man, named Palomino Cañedo, was who Sergei lost his virginity to so the affair was filled with passion and an emotional rawness that many think inspired a change in Sergei’s understanding and portrayal of the human condition in his works after that time. The film stars Elmer Bäck as Sergei and Stelio Savante, who you may know as Steve from Ugly Betty, as Hunter S Kimbrough who was financing Sergei’s visit to Mexico as part of a film venture. As Sergei is shown in the movie to struggle with his homosexuality the movie will be particularly relevant to those struggling due to their country’s laws or just societal norms. And Eisenstein in Guanajuato shows that sadly even though over 80 years has passed Sergei’s conflict with his sexuality is still relevant today as it ever was, especially for Sergei’s fellow Russians.

The Duke of Burgundy

The third film, The Duke of Burgundy, is a film that explores the BDSM (particularly S&M) relationship between two women in a world where only women exist. Duke of BurgundyThe film is named after the very rare butterfly species The Duke of Burgundy as the film’s main character, Cynthia, is a butterfly collector and so butterflies and moths are seen throughout the film. You’ll find it hard not to look for some sort of meaning in all the beautiful and intriguing imagery the writer and director, Peter Strickland, has included in the film but, he says, all the butterflies were not intended to mean anything but add some form of texture to the movie. It’s this texture that really enraptures and ensnares you, much like one of Cynthia’s butterflies, as you watch her relationship with the subservient maid Evelyn deepen.

The Sydney Film Festival runs from June 3-14. For more information see the Sydney Film Festival’s website.