MiniReview: "Suddenly, Last Summer" (film)

What is it?

A film, directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz and starring Elizabeth Taylor, Montgomery Clift (who kept reminding me of Anderson Cooper with dark hair) and Katharine Hepburn, based on a play by Tennessee Williams. Released in 1959. 


What is it about?

A psychotherapist is instructed by a rich woman, Mrs. Venables, to lobotomize her niece in return for a large financial contribution to his hospital, but the one who's nuttier than a fruitcake isn't the niece.


What did I think?

Wonderful! It's completely over-the-top melodrama, occasionally tipping over (intentionally, I'm sure) into comedy, but the performances of the three stars and the supporting cast are so honest that the film never becomes ridiculous. At the heart of the intrigue is a horrific story involving a gay man, now dead, who was either a paragon of virtue or a nasty prick, or both. There are too many neuroses here to count.


So what's the LGBT content?

As I said, the dead man who is at the centre of the "mystery" of who's crazy and who isn't is gay as anything, and boy, does he pay for his "evil ways." This film does fall into the rich tradition of art depicting the homosexual as suffering and destined to die unhappily (the character is even called Sebastian, after the gay-icon saint who's stuck full of arrows), but it has some powerful things to say about the struggle between the aggressive and the meek, the oppressors and the oppressed, and about the ugly forces of nature. And religion. And how sex and religion don't mix well.


What rating would I give it (using the Michelin-guide 3-star system)?:

2 stars (worth taking a detour for)

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