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Case Number 06332: Small Claims Court

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Passionate Gay Classics

Parting Glances
1986 // 90 Minutes // Rated R
To Die For (1994)
1994 // 96 Minutes // Rated R
Bedrooms And Hallways
1999 // 105 Minutes // Rated R
Released by First Run Features
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // March 3rd, 2005

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All Rise...

Judge Brett Cullum can think of at least two things wrong with that title for each of the three films in this set.

The Charge

Peter: I like to chase. I'm a wolf in twinkie clothing.
(From Parting Glances)

Darren: Rub some compost in your face, straight boys love it.
(From Bedrooms and Hallways)

The Case

A friend of mine works for a record store. One time, she told me how she was amazed at the action her "Classical" section was getting all of a sudden. She said that they had these "Gay" classical collections, and they were selling like hotcakes. I wandered over to that section and noticed all these classical compilation CDs had the normal Bach and Beethoven on them, but with a shirtless male model on a beach on the cover. These were collections that had neither gay composers, nor even pieces composed on any sort of gay theme (okay, "nocturne" is debatable). People were buying these collections of classical CDs at full retail just because they were aimed at the Gay community through some clever packaging with a hot model. It was classic music, but not gay music. Well, with Passionate Gay Classics we definitely have a box set of three movies covered with hot male models, and the word "GAY" writ large in all-white caps. No doubt they are gay, but are the three movies chosen by First Run Features truly passionate classics? Or is it just a clever way to sell three movies to a gay consumer?

Passionate Gay Classic Movie # 1 of 3
First up in the box of Passionate Gay Classics is Bedrooms and Hallways which was released in 1999. The first thing you'll notice from the box art is the presence of Hugo Weaving—or as I like to call him, Agent Smith from The Matrix. Gay cinema fans will also remember him traveling through Australia as a drag queen in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Now before you get too excited, bear in mind Mr. Weaving is married with two children in real life, and his part here is really a one-joke extended cameo. He plays a horny housing agent who likes to get it on while the homeowners he is representing are away. It's a hilarious naughty bit, but that's not what the movie is about. Bedrooms and Hallways concerns a guy named Leo (Kevin McKidd, Hideous Kinky) who decides to join a men's group, at the urging of one of his straight friends, to get in touch with his masculine side. He does do that, but he also falls in love with a straight guy in the group named Brendan (James Purefoy, Vanity Fair). Now get this—Brendan is engaged to Leo's high school sweetheart. A very strange love triangle quickly forms. It all ends up a complicated mess, and by the end of the movie everyone discovers just how gray their sexuality really is. It's the one gay movie where in the end you almost root for the gay guy to get the girl.

Gay classic? Yeah, I'll go there with Bedrooms and Hallways. It's funny as hell, and has some very nice moments. It's directed by lesbian auteur Rose Troche (Go Fish, and one of the best shows on TV, The L Word), who seems to handle her material here very well. Is it passionate? There aren't really any great love scenes between the leads. Take heart, because Agent Smith (okay…Hugo Weaving) gets a lot of action. He ends up getting it on several times with Tom Hollander (Gosford Park), and they pretty much steal the movie anytime they are on the screen. Your tolerance for the movie will depend on how fluid you think sexuality really is. Bedrooms And Hallways really takes odd twists that worked remarkably well, but it's going to surprise many people who think sexuality is rigidly defined. It is presented in a nice solid fullscreen transfer with an okay stereo mix that does fine by the music and dialogue. As an extra feature we get an interview with director Rose Troche, who mainly talks about Go Fish and never mentions this film. I'm not sure why that was on here, but I like hearing her talk so I'll let it slide.
Score for the movie: 87
Score for the DVD: 85

Passionate Gay Classic Movie # 2 of 3
Next in the box is 1986's Parting Glances, which is definitely a classic that has aged pretty well. It chronicles twenty-four hours in the life of a gay couple as one of them prepares to leave. Richard Ganoung (Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss) plays a book editor named Michael. He is partnered with Robert (John Bolger, Black and White), who is leaving to run a medical nonprofit operation in Africa. Michael's ex is a rock star with AIDS who is dying, played with remarkable grace and verve by Steve Buscemi (Fargo and any indie movie worthy of him). The cast is largely unknown, but includes a pre-Mimi Kathy Kinney (The Drew Carey Show). It's definitely very '80s, including music from Bronski Beat, and enough wing-backed hair to make A Flock of Seagulls jealous. Yet it's still a powerful and moving portrait of a time in New York when sex was dangerous, and people were scared for many reasons. The nice thing is that Parting Glances treats AIDS as just part of the landscape, and we really get to see how these people relate and love each other no matter what happens.

Is it classic? Heck yeah! You couldn't find a more deserving film of the title. Is it passionate? Not really. There is one hot scene at the opening with Michael and Robert, but that quickly passes and the major themes kick in. It's not a movie about sex, it's more a movie about lifestyle. It is passionate about showing a group of friends and some very real characters, so kudos for that. The transfer is a fullscreen job full of scratches, grain, and pretty lackluster black levels. A stereo soundtrack is provided so you can jam to the MTV theme and one of my favorite '80s tunes, "The Dominatrix Sleeps Tonight." Oh yeah, and there's a lot of opera and classical music too. For an extra we get some blurry notes on the production. This one deserves a special edition some day, but at least it's on DVD.
Score for the movie: 95
Score for the DVD: 65

Passionate Gay Classic Movie #3 of 3
Up next is a 1994 release called To Die For. At first I wondered why a Nicole Kidman movie about an overly ambitious lethal weather girl was in here—but it's not that one. To Die For is the film's original UK title, but it was released here in the United States as Heaven's A Drag, because Gus Van Sant and his studio didn't want any confusion. No need to worry—this one is about a leather queen named Simon (Thomas Arklie, who never appeared in anything else other than a guest spot on Melrose Place) whose drag queen partner Mark (Ian Williams, Blood Moon) is dying of AIDS. He eventually does pass away, and Simon buries his remorse by cruising London's seamier side. The problem is that Mark is now a ghost haunting him and his one night stands until he admits his true feelings of grief and love.

Is it a classic? No. It's a slightly offensive comedy that has some cute moments, but never earns the tearjerker status that it's shooting for in the final reel. The actors try their best, but I think this was a script that couldn't decide where it was going. Is it passionate? Out of all three movies it has the most sexual situations, but they never seem to be all that hot, save for the exquisite form of Mr. Arklie. Oh well! At least he's easy on the eyes. Which brings us to the worst transfer of the set, and one that is very hard on anybody's eyes. It's the only movie in the set presented in widescreen, but it's hideous looking. Grainy, dirt riddled, and absolutely turns to muddy ink on any night scenes. Sound is a stereo mix that is so muffled it sounds like someone stuffed a pillow in your speakers. It's wretched. No extras at all, save for some trailers of films that probably have better transfers. And the whole title confusion? The box may say To Die For, but nobody bothered to remove the box that says Heaven's a Drag in the film's opening titles off the print we are watching.
Score for the movie: 69
Score for the DVD: 45

As A Box Set
In the end we get a mixed bag of passion and classics that don't add up, in total, to either. At least they are all gay! That's the good news. All these movies are available separately. I would recommend Parting Glances as required viewing and necessary for a good gay film collection. Bedrooms and Hallways is a great title to add to the Netflix list, and To Die For is an oddity some will find okay or amusing. (I'd rather get the Nicole Kidman one any day!) From what I can tell the set may save you a couple of bucks compared to buying them all separately, but only two of the movies are close to being keepers. I think it would make a really nice gift for a gay friend right before a Pride Parade. Throw in a gay classical CD and you've got a gift basket.

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Genres

• Comedy
• Drama
• Gay

Scales of Justice, Parting Glances

Judgment: 80

Perp Profile, Parting Glances

Studio: First Run Features
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 1986
MPAA Rating: Rated R

Distinguishing Marks, Parting Glances

• Production Notes

Scales of Justice, To Die For (1994)

Judgment: 71

Perp Profile, To Die For (1994)

Studio: First Run Features
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 96 Minutes
Release Year: 1994
MPAA Rating: Rated R

Distinguishing Marks, To Die For (1994)

• None

Scales of Justice, Bedrooms And Hallways

Judgment: 86

Perp Profile, Bedrooms And Hallways

Studio: First Run Features
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 105 Minutes
Release Year: 1999
MPAA Rating: Rated R

Distinguishing Marks, Bedrooms And Hallways

• Interview with Rose Troche








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