Criterion film a day, day 11: Weekend and the (non) politics of gay sex and love

Let’s be clear, when we talk about “gay” sex or “gay” marriage, very rarely are talking about the union (physical, spiritual) of two men: Yes, abstractly that’s what it is, but in reality those words to transform the sex or the marriage into something else, something highly politicized, something hated, something satanic. It depends on your interpretation. At its core it becomes a signifier for something different: Sex is natural, “gay sex” is controversial and needs to be called out as “gay” sex.

The film Weekend grapples with this with astonishing power. On one level, it’s just a really sweet, great love story between two young men lost in very different ways. Instead of being maudlin a powerful combination of acting and script come together to give you that rarest of rare elements in cinematic love stories: intimacy. It is the first “gay” film I’ve seen that I felt really might have stepped away from hetero-normative filmmaking.
On a second level, the film calmly examines how the politics of being gay become so woven into everything about gay life. The film challenges its viewers to understand that this is not a heterosexual film not with the spectacle of sex between two men (something that could make straight folk ooh and ahh with either disgust or amazement at their own open-mindedness), but something far more concrete: Two men recalling the details of their night together. The scene quietly extends itself, daring the viewer to really think about not just sex, but intimacy—and the shocking realization of what a new normal, a normal that included homosexuality as equal to other forms of sexuality would look like.
It is an incredibly smart, deftly played scene, and the rest of the film unfolds with similar mastery. There are various discussions about different ways to be gay—one of the lovers is out but uncomfortable with public affection, the other is patient and understanding, but obviously frustrated. They debate and argue about it as their short, two-day relationship builds and twists in the way that only such a fling works.

This is not a film about gay victimhood, or if it is, it is a film about how all people who are not heterosexual are victimized in the most mundane ways—and how tedious such bigotry must be. The film keeps the judgmental world on the periphery—and it sometimes invades their intimate moments, with passers-by glancing, or people off in the distance yelling or whistling. Without making it an issue, it shows the power of that steady, humming sense of difference that gradually becomes a part of your sub-conscious and then conscious like the most insidious type of white noises.

The love story is beautiful, the politics frustrating, both are magnificently, powerfully portrayed.

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About Big Adam

A NYC doorman, a community organizer, wannabe ape, sometimes blogger, sometimes writer, always crossword puzzle incompleter, I will ride bicycles with your papa, dance Bhangra with your mama, take you on dates that cost nada.
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