MiniReview: "Making Montgomery Clift" (film)

What is it?

It’s a documentary film about Montgomery Clift, made by his nephew Robert Anderson Clift and released in 2018.


Is there anything new to say about Clift? There have been so many biographies, television shows, and so on. Such a tragic life!

What’s different about this one is that it’s told from the point of view of the Clift family, and shows how they have tried to protect Monty’s image ever since his death in 1966, mostly unsuccessfully. The film counters the widely held view that Montgomery Clift was tortured by his homosexuality, was forced to lead a double life in Hollywood, and then spiralled out of control after an automobile accident in 1957 that messed up his beautiful face.


And that’s not true?

Apparently not. It seems that Clift, who was actually bisexual, was very much at ease with his sexuality. But don't we love the idea of the tortured gay?  


Who is “we”?

Well, the public in general, but I think queer people are also attracted to images of ourselves as beautifully tortured individuals. Often we are, but there’s enough misery in the gay community to go around; we don’t need to create it where it doesn’t exist. And it seems from this documentary that Montgomery Clift was not essentially a tortured soul. There is lovely, touching testimony from two men who knew him intimately, and who speak of his joyfulness and sense of fun. And what artistic integrity he had!


So he’s not a tragic queer icon after all?

He is an icon, but we should maybe drop the “tragic” label. After watching this documentary, I have a deep respect for the courage and integrity with which Clift lived life his way, avoiding putting himself into “a neat little pigeonhole” (a phrase he apparently liked to use). This refusal to play the game is queerness at its best, I believe. He loved widely, both men and women, white and black, including a long relationship with a woman much older than himself.


So does this get a star?

Yes. It’s a unique and refreshing take on the subject, visually inventive and lively, and full of stunning still and moving images of Monty, many of them from home movies. Really, do men get any more beautiful than this?

Write a comment

Comments: 0