Pride month may be over, but that is no reason to stop watching queer films! Here are a handful of old and new titles to watch on various streaming and VOD platforms in July.
“Victor/Victoria” (Criterion Channel)
Blake Edwards’ gender-bending, Oscar-winning comedy (for Best Music/Score) is still amusing, even if its farce about Victoria (Julie Andrews), a woman, pretending to be a man, pretending to be a woman, can feel strained at times. In 1934 Paris, Victoria is a down-on-her-luck singer who can break glass with her voice, but can’t get a job. When she meets Carole “Toddy” Todd (Robert Preston), a gay man, he devises a plan where she poses as a man, Count Victor, who performs an act as a female impersonator. The showcase is a hit, and Victor catches the eye of gangster King Marchand (James Garner) who is confused by his attraction; he cannot — and does not — believe Victor is a man. A bedroom farce ensues as King sneaks into Victor/Victoria’s suite in the same hotel to discover the truth. A subplot features a bumbling investigator (Sherloque Tanney) later doing the same.
But “Victor/Victoria” is focused more on the fluidity of gender and sexuality. Victoria gets to experience male privilege, while King feels he must reassert his masculinity. Preston is witty and campy as the gay Toddy, and Leslie Ann Warren is a delight as King’s scorned girlfriend. The big, lavish musical numbers are fun, and Edwards, who never misses an opportunity for slapstick or a sight gag, is a master at setting up as well as repeating jokes that build to a decent payoff. “Victor/Victoria” plays to the rafters, but like Victoria’s charade, it improbably succeeds.
“You Are My Sunshine”
“You Are My Sunshine” is an amateurishly made and acted melodrama that toggles back and forth in time between the present day, where Joe (Charles O’Neill) and Tom (Ernest Vernon) are in their sunset years, and decades earlier, when the shy Joe (Jack Knight) and the outgoing Tom (Steve Salt) first met. (A gay pamphlet indicates the year is 1972.) The romance that develops between these two young men, who think about what their future together will be like — while also acknowledging their lack of rights — is sweet, and the best part of this sappy film. The lovers’ romance is complicated by Joe’s sister Ethel (Charlie Clarke) and his father’s (Simon Bamford) homophobia. When Ethel happens upon Joe and Tom kissing one night, the soundtrack practically shrieks in horror. “You Are My Sunshine” eventually introduces a health issue for Joe that allows the characters to express their love and regrets before it is too late. But it may be too late for viewers who will need more from this overlong and underwhelming film.
“Cop Secret” (on VOD July 12)
From Iceland, “Cop Secret” puts a fun spin on the buddy-cop drama as Bússi (Auðunn Blöndal), the top cop in Reykjavik, becomes partners with Hördur (Egill Einarsson), his rival in Gardabaer, the next district over, to solve a string of bank robberies where no money is stolen. The guys loathe each other, so of course, they eventually fall in love. (Bússi has been questioning his sexuality; Hörder is openly bi). The film is highly amusing as it leads into the genre’s conventions, and the villain, Rikki Ferrari (Björn Hlynur Haraldsson) is as amusing as he is mischievous. “Cop Secret” may play up gay stereotypes, but its tongue is firmly in cheek. This is a crowd-pleasing action comedy.
“The Silver Screen: Color Me Lavender” (out July 19 on Kino Now)
Out later in the month is Mark Rappaport’s engaging documentary about how homosexuality was insinuated — but never spoken about — in classic Hollywood cinema. The film, narrated by out gay actor Dan Butler, uses clips from movies made in the 30s, 40s, and 50s to show how “the love that dared not speak its name” was often coded as men danced with men, dressed as (or pretended to be) women, and sometimes even lived together. There are various cleverly selected comic examples, many featuring Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, and Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. A segment on Clifton Webb’s epicene characters is revealing, as is an extended sequence on the “Walter Brennan Syndrome,” which illustrates how the character actor often expressed repressed — and sometimes more explicit — same-sex desires. And, of course, there are clips featuring Cary Grant and Randolph Scott, which only double down on the couple’s on- and off-screen relationship. Butler unpacks these and other intimations, including a brief segue into European films and how gay directors Luchino Visconti and Jean Cocteau filmed Massimo Girotti and Jean Marais, respectively. If this documentary covers too much ground, it is still an eye-opening account of how gay assertions and innuendo infiltrated cinema, whether viewers were attuned to them or not.
“My Fake Boyfriend”
“My Fake Boyfriend” dropped on Amazon in mid-June. It’s a cute but corny romcom about Andrew (out gay Keiynan Lonsdale) a stuntman/self-defense instructor in New York who needs to quit his toxic ex, Nico (Marcus Rosner), a vain actor on a hit series. Andrew’s bestie, Jake (Dylan Sprouse) takes drastic action by inventing a fake boyfriend, Cristiano Maradona, who helps Andrew escape his ex and improve his life. Of course, Andrew quickly falls in love for real with Rafi (Samer Salem), a restaurateur who is a snack and a half. Directed by Rose Troche, this predictable comedy ably zips through all the awkward exchanges as Andrew tries to determine if Rafi is gay and into him; the efforts the jealous Nico makes to win back his ex; and the attempts folks make to meet the mysterious Cristiano. While the film features too much strained and unfunny physical humor, the scenes between Andrew and Rafi are adorable. Lonsdale and Salem are charming together, and the messages about self-confidence are delivered sweetly. Both Sarah Hyland (“Modern Family”) as Jake’s girlfriend and Karen Robinson (“Schitt’s Creek”) as Andrew’s mom, lend fine support for this sit-comic feature that was produced by BuzzFeed and features copious product placements.