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, 12 November 2014

Another BBC rarity: The Lost Language of Cranes

Revisiting a gay classic: THE LOST LANGUAGE OF CRANES, 1991.
A young gay man comes out to his middle-class parents, which has repercussions for his father who has long since been trying to repress his own sexuality.

I saw this BBC Screen Two production when it aired in 1991 - the one time it was shown, so thanks to my pal Colin for finding a copy - its a German issue dvd. Its from a good novel by David Leavitt, scripted by Sean Mathias, and directed by Nigel Finch (another who did not survive the Aids crisis), produced by BBC regular Mark Shivas, and with an interesting cast. 

The great Eileen Atkins and Brian Cox excel of course as the parents Owen and Rose - we are back in that intellectual, middle-class milieu of London (as in Schlesinger's SUNDAY BLOODY SUNDAY) - she works in publishing as a book editor and he is a lecturer, and they have to leave to their well-organised apartment in 3 months ... their son Phillip (Angus MacFadyen) who is gay is seeing an American, Corey Parker. There is also Cathy Tyson as their best friend. Corey returns to the States but not before a visit from the two men, a couple, who brought him up after his parents were killed in an accident. This couple is played by veteran director John Schlesinger and Rene Auberjonois. 
Phillip decides he has to be open and honest and have no secrets and so tells his parents he is gay. Rose keeps her silence but this has a shattering effect on the father Owen, who breaks down. He has been struggling with his own homosexuality all his life, and now goes out on Sundays to porno cinemas to meet strangers .... his son's openly gay lifestyle is now a painful contrast to his closeted existence; but lots of gay men of his era did marry then and hope to lead normal, if not double, lives ...
Rose is no fool and has her own suspicions and feels her marriage is failing, particularly when Owen returns at three in the morning (after meeting Frank - Richard Warwick, in what looks like the old London Apprentice bar). 

It all comes to a head when Owen invites an attractive American student to dinner, and Phillip is there too. It is all too obvious to Rose that Owen finds the student attractive ..... so everything is revealed and life has to change. Rose did have an affair (as she was so unhappy in her marriage), with a colleague at work, who is still interested in her, so that could be a solution for her, as she realises her marriage has been a sham although Owen does love her and want to stay with her - she can accept her son is gay but now knows her husband is also. We leave Owen staying at Phillip's apartment as he watches his son and his new companion (Ben Daniels) walk down the street, maybe Owen could have a future with Frank ? 
Eileen, so often Mrs Glum, is terrific here - she was also Dirk Bogarde's wife in another BBC Screen Two rarity THE VISION in '87 with Lee Remick, if only one could get a copy of that ... 

This is an absorbing family drama touching on gay issues seen from that well-to-do milieu, I was pleased to get a copy again, following on from THE LINE OF BEAUTY (below), as I had also read the novel. And the cranes? - they are construction cranes, not birds.

We may now go back and revisit those other '80s gay dramas as well: MAURICE, QUERELLE, PRICK UP YOUR EARS, PRIVATES ON PARADE etc. 

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