Friday, June 2, 2017

Reverend's Reviews: Handsome Devils, Then & Now



I was just starting to come out 30 years ago.  Therefore, my similarly-inclined friends (including Movie Dearest editor, Kirby Holt) and I were pretty desperate at the time for big-screen depictions of gay life. Fortunately, the mid-1980's were a time of transition to more positive representations of gay men via such productions as Prick Up Your Ears, Parting Glances, Kiss of the Spider Woman and My Beautiful Laundrette.  Most positive of all, though, was 1987's lavish Maurice by the lauded filmmaking team of James Ivory and Ismail Merchant, who were also longtime life partners.  A beautifully restored digital print of the gay romance is opening theatrically in Los Angeles this Friday.



Maurice (pronounced "Morris") was adapted from E.M. Forster's semi-autobiographical novel, which he allowed to be published only after his death in 1970 at the age of 91.  It was the second of three highly-acclaimed Merchant-Ivory productions based on Forster's works, the others being A Room with a View and Howard's End (David Lean's 1984 epic A Passage to India was also based on a Forster book).  While Maurice only received one Academy Award nomination (for costumes) unlike the multiple nods these other adaptations received, it may actually be the best remembered and most influential of them all. This is certainly the case among gay men over 40, once you figure in the film's initial release on home video.




As the story begins, its title character (played by towheaded hunk James Wilby) is a young student at England's Cambridge University during the first decade of the 20th century.  There he befriends the darkly handsome Clive (one of Hugh Grant's early performances) but it isn't long before the pair, influenced by their studies of classic Greek culture, realize they are in love with one another.  Alas, same-sex relations were criminalized then, a fact which hits uncomfortably close to home for Maurice and Clive when one of their classmates is sentenced to prison for "crimes against nature."  Clive ends their relationship and ends up marrying a woman while Maurice, after attempting to go straight with the help of an American hypnotist (a hilarious Ben Kingsley), runs away with Clive's rugged gameskeeper (played by the dreamy Rupert Graves).


The film's exceptional supporting cast is a virtual who's who of 1980's British acting royalty including gay actors Denholm Elliott and Simon Callow, Billie Whitelaw and, in a cameo, Helena Bonham Carter.  In typical Merchant-Ivory style, Maurice is leisurely paced and somewhat overlong but it proves ripe for discovery by younger LGBTQ viewers, who are actually more accustomed to longer running times and frank depictions of homosexuality than I was back in 1987.  Maurice lives on!


Also opening in LA this weekend is the Irish crowd-pleaser Handsome Devil, written and directed by John Butler.  Additionally, it will be screening at San Diego's FilmOut on Sunday, June 11th and is my personal favorite of the men’s films selected for the fest that I was able to preview.

Reminiscent of 1990’s gay coming-of- age movies from the UK like Beautiful Thing and Get Real, it is about two roommates at a conservative all-boys school who gradually connect on a deeper level. Acclaimed and super-cute actor Andrew Scott (Spectre, Professor Moriarty on the BBC’s Sherlock) plays the school’s new English teacher, who has a secret or two of his own.

Between these two releases and Wonder Woman (finally), let's all have a big gay weekend at the movies!

Reverend's Ratings:
Maurice: A-
Handsome Devil: B+

Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film and stage critic of Movie Dearest and Rage Monthly Magazine.

2 comments:

  1. Rupert showed off his exquisite jewels not in "Maurice, but another film (its name eludes me).
    He happens to have an academy award winning shlong.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Rupert has been naked in a lot of movies, including Maurice. Here's some screen shots from A Room With A View, Maurice, Open Fire and Different For Girls... you're welcome :)

    http://gravesdiggers.tumblr.com/post/52941219943/screpochka-some-friday-pictures-a-room-with-a

    ReplyDelete

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