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The Silver Screen/Color Me Lavender.

Isn't it terrific that there are so out lesbian filmmakers that it is possible to devote a whole movie to profiling them and not out of steam? Isn't it depressing that there are so few out gay male actors in Hollywood that one of them could someday corner the market in narrating documentaries about how few out gay actors there are in Hollywood?

The formidable size of Hollywood's closet is but one concern of The Silver Screen/Color Me Lavender, a post-Vito Russo probe into the codes and representations of homosexuality in cinema's past. Hosted with puckish charm by Dan Butler, this latest deconstruction of film icons from Mark Rappaport (Rock Hudson's Home Movies) is destined to be far more controversial than HBO's genteel distillation of Russo's cranky tome, The Celluloid Closet.

Rappaport revives the "shyster lawyer" techniques with which he exposed the homoeroticism lurking in Hudson's films, using stop action, slow motion, and crafty editing to insinuate new meaning into old movie clips. In this manner we are able to see that there is more than male bonding afoot in Bob Hope and Bing Crosby's Road pictures as well as in the films of Danny Kaye, Gene Kelly, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, and Cary Grant and his secret love, Randolph Scott. In his most persuasive if overstated thesis, Rappaport dissects what he calls "the Walter Brennan syndrome," the phenomenon of the sidekick who assumes the housewife's burden for his adored buddy and chases off interfering women.

Rappaport shores up his often questionable methods against any possible protest by having his host trot out the arguments ("Isn't a cigar sometimes just a cigar?") and then instantly nip them in the bud. It's a movie that invites back talk ("So Randolph Scott was queer--he didn't write his dialogue, did he?") even as you sorely want to believe everything it's selling. Rappaport's scholarship occasionally stops short at critical points: It would be useful to know that Kaye was snatched up by the movies after slaying Broadway in the part of a flaming homosexual. Even in its slithery selectiveness, however, the film is an unusually tart-tongued, erudite documentary that always respects our intelligence.

The dearth of lesbian content in Color Me Lavender is more than made up for in Lavender Limelight: Lesbians in Film, Marc Mauceri's entertaining talking-heads survey of out women filmmakers. Despite the preponderance of nose rings, this is an arrestingly varied bunch, ranging from the Teutonic earnestness of Monika Treut (Didn't Do It for Love) to the irrepressible American-renegade spirit of Paris Is Burning's Jennie Livingston. Rose Troche is funny and engaging describing her pre-Go Fish experimentation ("Almost anything you can do to film I've done to film, down to burning it"). Innovator Su Friedrich bemoans having lost her experimental audiences with her first gay films, only to capture a lesbian following indifferent to her cutting-edge style. Lavender Limelight is good stuff, but isn't it time we owned a new color?.
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Author:Stuart, Jan
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Movie Review
Date:Jul 21, 1998
Previous Article:Two of a kind.
Next Article:Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss.

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