The gay films of 2004 merit a solid fair to middling overall rating, with a couple of lovely exceptions. Chief among those was Miguel Albaladejo's Bear Cub, a poorly titled but beautifully rendered story of a (tubby, hairy) gay man who learns how to parent his abandoned nephew. The Legend of Leigh Bowery, a documentary from Charles Atlas, chronicles the life and all-but-indescribable career of the eponymous clubgoer, performer, musician, provocateur, and fomenter of outrageous artistic expression. The film presents a cascade of unforgettable images, all of them engineered by its subject during his brief and blazing reign over the '80s club scene in London.
The year's other notable gay movies came with flaws:
John Waters's A Dirty Shame was a sore disappointment, opting for hysterical, mind-numbing farce rather than bothering to make a shred of sense.
There was plenty to love in Pedro Almodóvar's Bad Education, including a foregrounding of male homosexuality rare for the Spanish director and a superstar turn by Mexican delicacy Gael García Bernal. But Almodóvar undermines the power of his material by forcing it into a genre (noir) that doesn't suit.
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Newcomer Jonathan Caouette blazed into town with Tarnation, a sui generis scrapbook of his tormented childhood assembled from countless hours of stills, Super 8's, video, DV, and everything else he used to record the events as they happened. Tarnation doesn't linger on Caouette's sexuality, and that approach works beautifully; the trouble is the abundance of onscreen titles, and their overindulgence in explanation.
In a historical turn, director Rodney Evans brought us Brother to Brother, an uneven, overearnest film that nevertheless has its merits, including a young, gay black man with a healthy dose of self-respect and a look into the lives of key players in the Harlem Renaissance.
Jim de Seve's Tying the Knot is a heartfelt endorsement of gay marriage that fails to consider whether the rights of unmarried and uncoupled people, gay or straight, should be considered in the struggle for equal rights.
Meanwhile, lesbians? Anyone? Anyone?