JUMP CUT
A REVIEW OF CONTEMPORARY MEDIA

 

Notes

Thanks to Jump Cut editors Julia Lesage, Chuck Kleinhans, and John Hess for their generous and thoughtful contributions to this essay, and to Matt Gatlin for his assistance in image retrieval.

1.None Know My Name was another of their favorites,” writes Jaynes about another title considered by his ostensible employers, “rejected only because it had too many n’s and m’s” (viii). Jaynes is also credited as the author of the introduction to the screenplays of the Coens’ films Barton Fink and Miller’s Crossing.

2. The authors of this essay are quite aware of the unresolved issue of film noir’s generic status, and of the fact that it has variously been referred to as “a period, a genre, a cycle, a style, or simply a ‘phenomenon’” (Naremore 106). Since this question is outside the purview of our analysis, however, we will refer to noir as a genre for the sake of convenience.

3. The authors made attempts to interview the Coen brothers but were unable to secure their participation.

4. Two other magazines we get a good look at on Crane’s prison desk are Stalwart and Wonder, featuring article headings proclaiming “After 10 Years of Married Life…I Discovered I Was an Escaped Lunatic!” and “I Was Abducted by Aliens,” respectively.

5. Naremore takes the noir-consciousness notion to its most extreme, arguing quite persuasively that film noir should be looked at less as a generic category than as part of “the history of ideas.” Essentially “a creation of postmodern culture,” noir, in Naremore’s revisioning, becomes little more than “the projection of an idea onto the past” (106, 107).

6. The Man Who Wasn’t There was actually shot in color, as commercial insurance, before being transferred to black and white for the film’s final cut. This decision was soon vindicated at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival, where Joel Coen shared the director’s prize with another celebrated film maverick, David Lynch, who won for Mulholland Drive.

7. The lesbian-identified web site Dyxploitation lists both Foxfire and Gia in its section titled “Movies with Dyke Appeal,” where readers can contribute film suggestions of possible relevance to a queer woman. The list is annotated, with Jolie’s presence noted not only on account of her explicitly queer characters in those two films but also for the perhaps more ambiguously queer role she plays in Girl, Interrupted (1999). Writes one contributor,

Her cool, dykish character had me captured in the movie and there’s even a scene where Winona Ryder’s character reaches over to Jolie’s character to give her a kiss. In my opinion, this was one of those films with ‘hidden’ gay content. I loved it.

http://www.dyxploitation.com/depts/movies.html

8. Protests against the 1980 film Cruising had been part of an earlier wave of gay activism. As for Basic Instinct, protests included revelations in advance of the film’s release that Sharon Stone’s bisexual character would turn out to be the elusive serial killer (not necessarily borne out by the film itself, of course, given its famously ambiguous ending). Gay protests were also mounted in 1991 against Oliver Stone’s JFK, for its implicit assumption of a gay Mafioso’s involvement in the killing of President Kennedy.

9. Recent developments have somewhat reversed, or at least complicated, the TV/movies relation in regard to gay representability. The Los Angeles Times reported at the start of the 2002 TV season that, contrary to an earlier trend,

this year’s prime time line-up will actually witness a sharp decline in the number of recurring gay, lesbian and transgender characters (Lowry F1).

In May 2003, the same newspaper backtracked, however (spurred by All My Children’s first-ever same-sex kiss in network daytime television), claiming that at least “smooches between women are no longer taboo” (Rosen E28). As for the movies, 2002 saw an increase in major same-sex characters, several in high-profile offerings such as Far From Heaven and The Hours (discussed later in the essay), in addition to Frida and Femme Fatale, as well as in the lower-budget independent Kissing Jessica Stein and Rules of Attraction. In the first half of 2003, lesbian kissing scenes have been featured in Anger Management and The Real Cancun.

10. Prominent noir remakes include: Body Heat (1981, based on Double Indemnity); The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981, 1946); Against All Odds (1984, based on Out of the Past, 1948); No Way Out (1987, based on The Big Clock, 1948); D.O.A (1988, 1950); Cape Fear (1991, 1962); Guncrazy (1992, based on Gun Crazy, 1949); The Underneath (1994, based on Criss Cross, 1949); Kiss of Death (1995, 1947). For a more complete list of noir remakes, see Martin 30-33, and Smallman, Smallman and Bohrer (1994).

11. Prominent period neo-noirs, other than those mentioned by the Coen brothers, include: Farewell, My Lovely (1973); Chinatown (1974); Thieves Like Us (1974); The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981); L.A. Confidential (1997). Partial and/or idiosyncratic uses of black and white in neo-noir include: Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (1981); D.O.A. (1988); Dead Again (1991); and Memento (2001). For a more complete list of period neo-noirs, again see Martin, and Smallman, Smallman and Bohrer.

12 The (hetero)sexual thrust of the bedroom scene is literally undercut when the scene’s apparent last shot, a close-up of Crane seemingly gazing up at Doris, is actually the next scene’s first shot, which is followed by a low-angle tilt up to the true “object of his gaze,” a scantily clad Jesus on the crosspart of the church setting for the Cranes’ weekly bingo game.

13. Additional gay significance can be attached to Da Vinci and Turandot, and thus, by association, to Riedenschneider: Leonardo Da Vinci, after whom the restaurant was presumably named, was famously “diagnosed” by Freud (posthumously, of course) as a homosexual; Turandot refers, as Riedenschneider tells Crane, to the Puccini opera, a cultural form stereotypically popular among gays.

14. Gays were far from the only minority group linked to Communists. Jews, from the earliest Socialist stirrings, had been openly chastised for their “disproportionate” involvement with radical leftwing causes. Jews and gays, meanwhile, have their own discursive historical bond, with Jewish males persistently having been characterized, in Europe and the United States, as effeminate. Joel and Ethan Coen, it bears noting, are Jewish. For in-depth discussions of the origins and ramifications of the Jewish-gay connection, see Daniel Boyarin, Unheroic Conduct: Jewish Masculinity (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), and Sander Gilman, The Jew’s Body (New York: Routledge, 1991).

15. Prominent examples of such characters include Peter Lorre’s Joe Cairo in The Maltese Falcon (1941), Laird Cregar’s Ed Cornell in I Wake Up Screaming (1942), Douglas Walton’s Lindsay Marriot in Murder, My Sweet (1944), Charles Laughton’s Earl Janoth in The Big Clock (1948), and Clifton Webb’s Waldo Lydecker in Laura (1944).

16. The bit with the cigars seems a nod to the homoerotic cigar- and cigarette-lighting scenes between Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) and Barton Keyes (Edward G. Robinson) in Double Indemnity.

17. In The Big Lebowski: The Making of a Coen Brothers Film, William Preston Robertson muses along similar lines about the Coens (22):

One might easily expect them to sleep in bed together, wearing nightshirts and nightcaps and contrapuntally snoring, a la Laurel and Hardy.

But they do not.”

18. Bound was also warmly recommended by two contributors to Dyxploitation’s aforementioned internet list, “Movies with Dyke Appeal.” In addition, published “sexpert” Susie Bright, an openly bisexual woman, served as an advisor on the film’s sex scenes. Her own account of her involvement can be read on her website.

19. Similarly, journalist Lisa Rosen, noting the increase in lesbian kissing scenes on U.S. television in 2003, asks: “But are they a sign of society’s acceptance or a rating’s ploy based on straight-male fantasies?” (E28).

20. In The Hours, the character Laura Brown (Julianne Moore) gives a passionate and desperate kiss to another woman. But her story, set in the 1950s, focuses more on what she is giving up in order to come out as a lesbian, particularly her relationship with her son (who, not incidentally, figures prominently in the contemporary portion of the film, as an esteemed gay poet who suffers from AIDS).

21. 2002 seemed to mark some redress of the imbalance in gay male and lesbian romantic depictions in Hollywood films. While lesbian sexual interaction was featured in The Hours, Frida, Femme Fatale, and Kissing Jessica Stein, signaling an uptick in queer representation generally (see Note 9), gay male kissing also took center stage, in Far From Heaven and Rules of Attraction. Even here, however, a caveat is in order: Far From Heaven’s gay embrace did not include the film’s protagonist, and Rules of Attraction’s could be interpreted as occurring in a dream. As for indications of a possible trend toward increased queer subtext in recent Hollywood films, see Stephen Farber’s commentary “Are They or Aren’t They?” (Los Angeles Times, May 25, 2003: E12).

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