Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Faster Pussycat, Kill, Kill! (1965)

Russ Meyer is one of my absolute favourite directors as a purveyor of camp fun, cheekiness and sleaze. His movies are always a joy to watch if you have a silly sense of humour, and he often casts women as supremely powerful and sexually aggressive. He is also a famous breast fetishist, and chose his leading ladies accordingly. I had to review this movie after hearing about the death of Haji earlier this month – Haji was a Go-go dancer and this was one of her most famous movies.

Director: Russ Meyer

Stars: Tura Santana, Haji, Lori Williams

Language: English

Length: 83min

Ratings: UK 18, USA Unrated – (Much is made of the violence in this film, but it is camp and exaggerated – there is brief nudity but most of the ‘good bits’ are cut out of shot)

Bisexual Characters:  Varla, Billie (Rosie is a lesbian)

Description: Three thrill seeking and deadly Go-go dancers in fast cars set off on a killing spree in the desert, kidnapping the young girlfriend of one of their victims before going after an old man’s money. Fast cars, karate chopping action and cheesy innuendo abounds.

Overall Thoughts

I first watched this film when I was around seventeen, when I was first discovering Russ Meyer and I have to say, I still find it wildly entertaining. Faster Pussycat, Kill! Kill! is considered to be Meyer’s magnum opus, and is a complete cult classic. It is an interesting film to watch from a female empowerment perspective as for its time (mid-sixties) the three central characters are refreshingly subversive. Varla, Rosie and Billie are all dominant, fun-loving, violent and unapologetic – which may or may not be your cup of tea, but is certainly ahead of its time. Women are seen again and again beating men in challenges of strength, wit and even drag racing in this movie, and even though their bodies all conform to a very particular ‘type’, they are definitely in charge of their own sexual destinies.

Presentation of Bisexuality

Bisexual women are often found in Russ Meyer’s work, and this film is no different. It is made fairly clear through not-so-subtle puns that two of the girls (Varla and Billie) are bisexual, while Rosie is gay and has no interest in men. In fact, Rosie and Varla are lovers (although this is never explicitly shown, only heavily implied) and Rosie becomes massively jealous when Varla goes after a dude. This of course (once again!) covers the ever popular trope that bisexuals are sex maniacs who are never satisfied with simply one partner of one gender. Something which Billie’s character explains to Rosie beautifully:

I can turn myself on a dozen different ways, but you? You’ve only got one channel, and your channel’s busy tuning in outside. You really should be AM and FM – you one-band broads are a drag!
Tura Santana as Varla

Varla, played by the magnificent Tura Santana, fulfills another popular trope – the depraved bisexual. She is clearly the most psychopathic and violent of the three women, as their leader, and her appetite for murder and mayhem is equalled only by her voracious appetite for sex. I definitely think that bisexuality here is used as an example of depravity, as Varla makes it clear that she will do anything and screw anything.

[I want] Everything – or as much as I can get. Right now you’re first on my list – and I always start at the top.


This film is not for everybody, that’s granted. It’s a fairly obscure kind of ‘genre’, and regarded by most as a quirky B-movie throwback. But the humour, I think, still stands, and the unashamed hammy acting has only increased its longevity. As a bisexual movie it would not be the top of any list I made, but it is certainly an excellent example of the tropes I mentioned. 

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Chasing Amy (1997)

I hadn’t seen Chasing Amy before, but I’ve been recommended it countless times, and it comes up in almost every search for bisexuality and film that I’ve done, so I felt like I’d better cover it. If I’m completely honest, it was probably Ben Affleck that was putting me off seeing the film for such a long time, but I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised. 

Director: Kevin Smith

Stars: Ben Affleck, Jason Lee, Joey Lauren Adams

Language: English

Length: 133min

Ratings: UK 18, USA 18 (I would imagine this is for swearing and descriptions of sex – there aren’t any graphic sex scenes in the movie)

Bisexual Characters:  Alyssa Jones

Description: Holden McNeil (Ben Affleck) is part of a successful comic book writing duo with his best friend Banky (Jason lee). His world is turned upside down when he meets Alyssa (Joey Lauren Adams), also a comic book writer who is his perfect woman in every way – except for the fact that she only dates women. The pair forms a close friendship, which eventually becomes a sexual relationship, and he is perfectly happy until Holden discovers a few things about Alyssa’s past which he doesn’t know how to handle.

Overall Thoughts

As I said, this film was a pleasant surprise. I’m aware that it is (loosely) part of a series by the director which includes Clerks, Mallrats and Dogma so there are in-jokes and aspects of that ‘universe’ crossing over into this movie – however, I hadn’t seen any of those films (I think I will now, though!) and it stood up by itself no problem. It might help to have a cursory knowledge of who Jay and Silent Bob are, though.

Though this film was funny and came from a very liberal attitude, I’d put a warning in there for homophobic language, which is fairly constant throughout the film. It’s grating at first, but I was so pleased to see that at one point a character actually challenges the use of these words, and actually throughout the movie ignorant and homophobic attitudes are consistently dealt with and subverted in a patient but firm manner. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie do that in a non-patronising way before, which was awesome.

Presentation of Bisexuality (spoilers)

My biggest fear coming into this film was (based on brief descriptions I’d read) that it would be about a straight guy who falls in love with a lesbian and manages to ‘turn’ her. Actually it was a lot more complicated than that, and a lot more thought provoking.

From a purely bisexual point of view, I have never related to any character in a film as much as I do Alyssa. She initially states (and demonstrates) that she is a lesbian, and is extremely confused/frustrated/hesitant about her feelings for Holden, because her attraction to him throws her whole world into upheaval. I think this is definitely something many bisexuals go through – I know that I personally identified as a lesbian when I was younger largely because I didn’t want to confuse anybody or cause confrontation by having to explain the entire ins and outs of my sexuality. I remember feeling embarrassed and almost ashamed about my attraction to the opposite sex at times, and it’s wonderful to see those feelings reflected here. I am completely in love with the explanation she gives for eventually allowing herself to be with Holden:

I'm not with you because of what family, society, life tried to instil in me from day one. The way the world is, how seldom it is that you meet that one person who just gets you - it's so rare… to cut oneself off from finding that person, to immediately halve your options by eliminating the possibility of finding that one person within your own gender, that just seemed stupid to me. So I didn't. But then you came along. You, the one least likely. I mean, you were a guy.
And while I was falling for you I put a ceiling on that, because you were a guy. Until I remembered why I opened the door to women in the first place: to not limit the likelihood of finding that one person who'd compliment me so completely. So here we are. I was thorough when I looked for you. And I feel justified lying in your arms, 'cause I got here on my own terms, and I have no question there was some place I didn't look. And for me that makes all the difference.

Alyssa is a pretty cool chick all round; from a feminist angle, she is confident in her sexuality and refuses to apologise for her promiscuous past, even when her partner tries to make her feel guilty. She does make mistakes, she isn’t perfect, but she does everything on her own terms.

Perhaps because of the director’s previous work, Chasing Amy seems to have a mostly male, heterosexual audience, and the story is told from the perspective of a white, heterosexual man – the crux of the story being his inability to handle his girlfriend’s sexually adventurous past. This is definitely something faced by the bisexual community when they approach new relationships. Same sex partners may worry you will ‘turn back’, opposite sex partners may (in my experience) worry that they are not sexually exciting or fulfilling enough.

In Conclusion…

While this movie wasn’t at all PC or a perfect example of a sex positive movie, it was better than most, as well as being funny, warm, well written and well-acted.  

Favourite line:

Maybe you knew early on that your track was from point A to B, but unlike you I was not given a fucking map at birth, so I tried it all!

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Henry & June (1990)

So for my first review, I picked Henry & June – mostly because I hadn’t seen it before. I found it referenced on this list, and the IMDb description piqued my interest.

Henry & June
Vital Stats
Director: Philip Kaufman

Stars: Fred Ward, Uma Thurman, Maria de Medeiros, Kevin Spacey, Richard E. Grant.

Language: English

Length: 136min

Ratings: UK 18, USA NC-17 for scenes of a sexual nature.

Bisexual Characters:  Anaïs Nin, June Miller, Eduardo Sanchez.

Description: In bohemian 1930s Paris, writer Anaïs Nin (de Medeiros) is in a stable, but ultimately unfulfilling relationship with her husband Hugo Guiler (Richard E. Grant). When she meets struggling American writer Henry Miller (Fred ward), who is working on his infamous novel Tropic of Cancer, and his captivating wife June (Uma Thurman), she begins expanding her sexual horizons and creates a love triangle between the author and his wife.

Overall Thoughts

I really enjoyed this movie. If you’re getting a little tired of the 1920s pastel shade obsession brought on by The Great Gatsby this summer, then rich, dark 1930s sleaze might be the perfect antidote. It actually reminded me in tone of another movie set in Europe during this period; and one of my favourite movies about bisexuality – Cabaret. Visually the movie is striking and beautiful, with references to Brassaï, Dalí and surrealist cinema (perfect for an arts and culture geek like me). It is also incredibly erotic, with numerous heterosexual and lesbian sex scenes.  

While I thoroughly enjoyed the indulgence and the casting (Maria de Medeiros and Uma Thurman, later to work together again in Pulp Fiction are a stunning pair, with unusual faces enhanced by the gorgeous ‘30s makeup), at two and a half hours, this film is LONG, and some parts may be a little dull. I would recommend it if you were interested in either of the two writers (and really, if you aren’t, you ought to be!), or just interested in erotic cinema. 

Presentation of Bisexuality (spoilers)

June Miller is perhaps the most prominent bisexual character in the movie. She is a figure of obsession for her husband, Henry, and later Anaïs. She demonstrates extreme passion and sexual attraction for Henry, and yet also moved her girlfriend, Jean, into their New York apartment, and flirts heavily with Anaïs. This is a stereotype that is all too familiar for many bisexual/pansexual people – the assumption that because of your sexuality you are unable to be monogamous, or remain faithful to your partner; that bisexuality is some kind of ‘hyper’ sexuality. June is also portrayed as manipulative (she often uses her sexuality to get money from people), a drug addict, an alcoholic and mentally unstable.

I’ve done the vilest things, the foulest things, but I’ve done them superbly
- June

Anaïs Nin is here presented as bisexual, although in real life she claimed not to be. Her interest in women is generally limited to June, and her sexual awakening mostly involves men. This is another stereotype – I’m not sure how prevalent it is, but one I’ve been faced with. If you are in a same-sex relationship and bisexual (especially as a woman) it is often assumed that your main interest is the opposite sex, and you will ‘go back’ to men (for example). This is actually said out loud in the film at one point, when Anaïs confesses her love for June (though she has been sleeping with Henry), June responds:

You make love to whatever you need, you just want experience!

And for the most part, that seems true of Anaïs’ character.

Anais, Henry and June

In Conclusion…

I think this was a pretty good movie to kick off with. Bisexuality was definitely there, I didn’t have to search for it, and while it wasn’t the most positive portrayal (though to be fair, none of the characters are all that likeable) it was based on real characters (however loosely) with real flaws, so I could get on board with that.

Favourite line:

Beware, Anaïs, these abnormal pleasures kill the taste of normal ones.

Amen to that!

Friday, 26 July 2013

First Post - Oh My!

Who am I?
This is the first time I’ve done anything blog-like, so please bear with me. I think I should probably start off with a few things about myself (brief things, promise!)

I’m a young woman in my early twenties, living in a tiny South London flat with my lovely partner of over four years. I have a nice stable job which is worryingly shaping up into a career of sorts. I have a degree in art history but I can’t make art – though I occasionally enjoy embroidery. I’m a feminist. I have a penchant for white wine, and I love to learn stuff.  

I identify as bisexual, and I love films.

Sexuality-wise, I have a fairly uninteresting backstory (though a better adjective is probably ‘fortunate’). Bisexuality always seemed fairly logical to me, being interested in all things sex from my very early teens. No one ever really hassled me over it and I’ve never really felt discriminated against or self-conscious about it. So lucky me, I suppose. Other than having my heart broken once or twice (sad violin) I mostly just had a lot of fun being Bi. Even my current (dude) partner barely batted an eyelid when I ‘came out’ to him.

Yeah, I told you it was dull.

What’s this blog all about?

Well, as I said, I love sex and I love cinema, and I love it when the two combine (oddly enough, not a huge porn fan – just not my bag). I started really thinking about the portrayal of bisexuality in movies (and tv) when I noticed that a lot of the characters I liked the best – mostly villains, eloquent psycopaths and generally dangerous bastards – had what you could call ‘bisexual traits’. In that they definitely exhibited a sexual attraction for both sexes – be it for the protagonist they are trying to cause trouble for, or for one of their equally depraved minions.

I initially thought this was kind of cool – who doesn’t love a badass? At least they weren’t wimps! But then I started thinking about why bisexuality fitted so neatly alongside murder, rape, sadism, sociopathy, manipulation… etc. etc. is bi-behaviour being used here as a symptom of psycho-killer syndrome?! This was interesting.

Then I found this awesome site, with this awesome list, and I wanted to know more! …But it turned out that there actually weren’t many articles about bisexual characters in cinema (not that I could find, anyway – please link me if you know of any!), let alone blogs. In fact, among the myriad of LGBTQ etc. blogs, there were very, very few ‘B’ blogs. So here we go.

So what are you going to do?

Watch a lot of movies. With bisexual themes, or characters who could be read as bisexual (pansexual too, of course). Then I’m going to blog about ‘em, see if any more tropes come up, see if any interesting patterns appear. That’s pretty much it, honest. This blog is not a diary, not about me and my feelings (I do have them though, honest!). Just movies and my observations.

I’ll also blog about anything related to bisexuality in movies.

It would be really cool if people got involved in helping me out – I’d love to have movies recommended to me, tips on blogging, ideas for posts – or even call me out if I do or say something that’s not cool with you.