Is That Too Continental?
Living in Manhattan in the summer of 1992, I was convinced that something dramatic, a near sea change, was in the air. Having the Democratic Convention in town made it seem I was in the virtual center of the world and that the grip of the Reagan-Bush dynasty. Locals were dissing that Madonna creature's Erotica album as "sex-lite" for square state queens, and there was a buzz about the so-called "new queer cinema" in which queers often celebrated their outlaw status.
I had mixed feelings about the movement but loved Tom Kalin's Swoon. His near-zero budget film combined archive footage, intentional anachronisms, nicely odd music, and droll performances that slightly echoed Guy Maddin but had its own unique vibe. The clip below from the opening is one of he sexiest sequences I've ever seen in a more or less mainstream film.
Though he's worked as a writer and producer for the past 16 years, Savage Grace is Kalin's first time back in the director's chair since his debut more than a decade and a half ago. I tried not to pay much attention to the luke warm to negative reviews. So I did my best to view it yesterday afternoon without too many expectations or already formed opinions. It shares with Swoon fags behaving badly, very badly and passes no judgment on it. It's as stylized as Swoon with sometimes arch dialog. "Shall we meet at the Stork Club for dinner? Say 10:30? Oh, is that too continental?" Julianne Moore's character Barbara Baekeland asks in the opening scene.
With bigger names stars, multi-continental settings, glorious shabby-chic Mediterranean interiors and gorgeously composed tableaus, the film looks amazing and held my interest as it weaved through its increasingly smarmy plot. Swoon didn't exactly make me walk away with sympathy for its sociopath leads, but it did make them incredibly appealing. Kalin may be the lone force in the genre of rich, killer fags, but Savage Grace didn't capture my heart or imagination the way Swoon did. maybe that's partially because Tony Baekeland lacked imagination or passion of Leopold and Loeb. Oh, his smarmy Spanish drug dealer boyfriend was not without his appeal, but the whole thing felt a bit icy even for someone of my Nordic disposition. I'm sure I'll eventually get the DVD and read up on the Baekelands but not with the passion that Swoon inspired.