Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

1980, 1982 - not so very gay ...

NIJINSKY, 1980. The May 1980 "Films in Review" review begins: "In a decade or so NIJINSKY may be seen as the Eighties' first and most perfect example of opulent camp, though it clearly wasn't intended that way...." Now, a couple of decades further on, it is a fascinating look at how cinema depicted gays at the start of the 80s, which was before that AIDS crisis ...
The success of THE TURNING POINT in 1977 probably made it easier for this film to be made but it’s a shame it was not made later when gay relationships could be depicted more openly. Perhaps NIJINSKY needed a touch of the Ken Russells (see below), as it is the good taste of Herbert Ross and his producer wife Nora Kaye swamp the project, but it has some electric moments, mainly when George De La Pena dances the faun in “L’Apres Midi D’un Faune” or that first night premiere of Stravinsky’s “The Rites of Spring”. Ross’s film, scripted by Hugh Wheeler and lensed by Douglas Slocombe, tries to capture that exciting time, circa 1912, when the Russian Ballet Rousses, managed by flamboyant impresario Sergei Diagheliv, a self-confessed "monster", caused a sensation with their dances and costumes as they toured Europe, with their famous main dancer Vaslav Nijinsky also Diagheliv's lover. The hothouse atmosphere of the ballet group and all that artistic temperament keeps one engrossed. 

The casting is the thing here: Alan Bates is perfect as the autocratic impresario, with that silver streak in his hair, and nobody wears an astrakhan coat and top hat better. La Pena and Leslie Browne fare less well in the dramatic stakes, he as Nijinsky descending into madness as he cracks from the pressure of trying to be brilliant all the time, while she essays the cunning woman who was determined to get him away from Diaghilev when the lovers have a misunderstanding and part and the dancer impulsively marries her, He spent his last years in an asylum, not really covered here apart from a closing title.. 

Sterling support from Alan Badel as the effete Baron who finances ballet, Jeremy Irons (in his debut, below right) as petulant choreographer Fokine, Janet Suzman, Sian Phillips (barely seen), Colin Blakely, Ronald Pickup as Stravinsky. It all looks great too with great costumes and sets, an obviously expensive production, but this was made in 1980, when CRUISING was typical of how gays were represented in the cinema. Here our lovers kiss just once and through a handkerchief, as they are afraid of catching germs! Nijinksy also appears in VALENTINO, as played by English ballet star Anthony Dowell whom we see in a rather good scene dancing with Nureyev's Valentino! 
One line will make you laugh, as Diagheliv stops Nijinsky from eating chocolate: "Nobody loves a fat faun"! 

More period Alan Bates in 102 BOULEVARD HAUSSMANN, a 1991 BBC production, written by Alan Bennett where Alan is writer Marcel Proust, who in 1916 is leading a reclusive life in Paris. He hires a quartet of musicians and befriends one of them, a wounded serviceman, with Paul Rhys and Janet McTeer as his housekeeper. I missed this at the time, but the BBC has kindly repeated it this summer so I have the recording waiting for when I am in the mood! (Now if they would only repeat those Lee Remick and Dirk Bogarde productions I have been banging on about .... as per labels)!

Jeremy Irons in NIJINSKY
I won't ever see CRUISING, that other depiction of gay life in 1980, which caused such a furore at the time - 1982 was not much better - 20th Century Fox came up with MAKING LOVE, maybe a brave at the time look at a husband realising he is gay. But there was also PARTNERS - which I imagine not many saw at the time, I have a copy on the way to me though, so there will be a report on it before too long. John Hurt, riding high after THE NAKED CIVIL SERVANT, ALIEN and THE ELEPHANT MAN plays the gay cop having to team up with very hetero Ryan ONeal as they pose as a gay couple to trap a gay killer, cue lots of "faggot" words - just like back in the 1970s with items like THE LOVE MACHINE .... it may be so bad its good or perhaps, more likely, just plain bad peurile Trash? 

1 comment:

  1. My friend Jorge in Sao Paulo adds:

    "I have a great fondness for Ross's 'Nijinsky' (often screen it to the students), I think it captures the frenzied creativity of the Ballets Russes with great charm, intelligence and beauty, the recreation of the key dancing pieces are evocative and often stunning (as you noted George De La Pena's take on the Faun is beyond exquisite, but I also love the threesome in "Jeu", and the rehearsals for the madly, incredibly difficult choreography for "The Rites of Spring"), and the cast is perfection (particularly Bates and Badel).

    I very much love Russell's 'Valentino' if only to have the opportunity to see Nureyev and Antony Dowell doing the tango, one of my favorite dancing moments on film. (Oh, 'Mahler' and 'Savage Messiah' are two of my favorite Russell, I'm sure you'll love them!)."