Elisa & Marcela

118 min.

De film is in zwart/wit, en straks moet ik daar nog een aparte categorie voor maken. Er zijn tenslotte vast wel mensen die daar een film op afkeuren.

Elisa Marcela filmEnfin. Om het nog meer niche te maken: het is een verhaal gebaseerd op feiten en de hoofdrolspeelsters zijn twee lesbiennes waarvan eentje zich als man verkleed om zo toch samen te kunnen leven. En de film is grotendeels in Spaans (met een heel klein beetje Portugees). Ga er maar aan staan.

Is dit allemaal de moeite waard? Als je op zoek bent naar iets anders-dan-anders, met aandacht voor cinematografie en tussendoor ook nog een vrouwelijke regisseur steunen: ja. Het is een mooie, zachte film die gelukkig niet een zacht filtertje over homofobie en hysterie schuift.

En, voor hen die daar altijd hard op zoek naar zijn: er is nog een happy ending voor de vrouwen ook.

Elisa & Marcela, Netflix 2019

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous

Let me begin again.

Golly gosh, how to explain this? It’s a memoir, it’s a fever dream, it’s an obituary – maybe? And did I like all of it, any of it, only the parts that I read at night? It was, in a way, beautiful, though. A kind of experience hard to put into words.

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is one of those titles that seem to be singing around in ‘Serious Reader’ circles for a while. It’s not loud enough to feel like it’s been hyped, nor is a celebrity book club attached, but there is the vibe of “Haven’t you read it yet?” around it. To me, anyway.

Ocean Vuong wrote poetry before, and it shows in his descriptions, his look on life, how it feels like he weighed every word before putting it down. It’s in juxtaposition with the subjects he writes down: the suffering of his grandmother and mother, the lack of family, being an immigrant child, being the only different one while growing up. All of it feels absolutely anchor-less.

Can you have an opinion about something that runs through your mind like sand through your hands? I’m sure you can, but I’m just going to stick with ‘an experience’ and a weird feeling of honour that Vuong allowed you in.

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, Ocean Vuong, Penguin Random House 2019

These Witches Don’t Burn

They say there’s a fine line between love and hate.

Queer teenage witches! And it shows, in this YA, littering the story with some bad decisions and Very Emotional Moments. Because: teenagers.

Main character Hannah is a real witch, living in Salem, and trying to keep her and her family’s magic a secret from those that are ordinary humans. It gets harder when attacks start to happen, her ex-girlfriend attempts to get her back while at the same time moving on with someone else, a cute new girl arrives and her coven puts down the law on magic use. Basically ordinary teenage life, indeed.

It might be testament to Isabel Sterling’s writing that sometimes it’s all very teenager, making everyone and their decisions a bit too annoying and young for this reader. This is balanced out by Hannah’s sweet thoughts and emotions about her sexuality and crush(es), and honestly – hasn’t anyone had their Teenage Moments.

As is my usual complaint; more world building would have been welcome, but for those that are always on the look out for more queer YA: These Witches Don’t Burn is a proper one.

These Witches Don’t Burn, Isabel Sterling, Penguin Random House 2019

Once & Future

Ari was hiding out in the Middle Ages.

This is a retelling of the King Arthur myth, but a lot more queer for everyone involved. It’s also a Young Adult novel, and Arthur in this case is a teenage girl (and this isn’t the only thing that’s flipped). Just in case you thought you couldn’t be surprised by that myth any more.

Capetta and McCarthy keep up the tempo, until they suddenly don’t. The evil overlords, dubious witch and wizard, the romances and family-relationships are so abruptly put on hold that I almost felt like I shouldn’t bother with the rest of the short novel. But before all that you get an entertainment park-like novel with a lot of roller-coasters and themed exhibitions.

This combined with the gender-flip, the amount of queer characters without it being turned into a fuss and/or characterisation, makes Once & Future appealing to both the fantasy/sci-fi crowd as those that will vacuum up everything related to the King Arthur myth.

Once & Future, Amy Rose Capetta & Cori McCarthy, Little, Brown, and Company 2019

Duckbutter

93 min.

Vraag ik nu echt om zoveel als ik eens een film wil zien waarin het lesbische/biseksuele stel lief en vrolijk is en een happy ending krijgt? Er zijn duizenden, zo niet miljoenen romantische comedies met een heteroseksueel stel, maar bij vrouwen die van vrouwen Duck-Butter-posterhouden … moet het schijnbaar altijd weer experimenteel, onaangenaam en bloot.

InĀ Duckbutter (zoek het maar niet op), ontmoeten twee vrouwen elkaar en besluiten een nacht samen door te brengen zonder beloftes en verwachtingen, en met veel seks. De ene is een muzikante en toont al trekjes die drama beloven, maar waarom eens niet ruimte voor een karakter dat high highs en low lows heeft en geen witte man is?

Het ‘vrije liefde’ deel van het experiment slaat dan al gauw om in beschuldigingen en verwachtingen, onderbroken door veel naakt en gescheld. Geen van de karakters hebben enige gunfactor, maar vraag is vooral waarom ze het zichzelf zo aandoen.

Zo wordt Duckbutter een demonstratie van (zelf)vernietiging en mag je je er daarna afvragen of er wel liefhebbende, blije lesbische/biseksuele stellen bestaan. Veel te weinig op film, in ieder geval.

Duckbutter,

 

Hannah Gadsby: Nanette

69 min.

Wow. Ik loop weer eens achter met iets kijken dat een poos geleden helemaal gehypet is/was, maar genoeg mensen zeiden ook dat je er echt wel de tijd voor moest nemen. Dat het emotioneel nogal pittig was, en dat is niet iets dat ik even voor de lol/uit verveling er doorheen jas.

Gadsby NetflixIk weet niet of ik het zou aanraden als ’emotioneel pittig’, Hannah Gadsby is gewoon heel erg eerlijk en geeft daar geen excuses voor. Ze vertelt over hoe ze dat gewend is, iets persoonlijks en ongemakkelijk vertellen om vervolgens er snel een grap van te maken want stel je voor dat iemand anders door haar niet comfortabel is. Ze vertelt ook hoe slopend het is om dat steeds weer te doen.

Ze vertelt over haar homoseksualiteit, haar jeugd, Vincent van Gogh en mentale ziektes. Ze doet het gortdroog en met emoties, en altijd onderbouwd. Er zijn zoveel opmerkingen en momenten waarbij je ofwel een ‘oh ja’- of een ‘oh shit’-gevoel ervaart. En dat hebben we allemaal wel eens nodig.

Dus ja, het is de hype waard, wanneer je ‘t ook kijkt. Maar serieus Netflix, waarom in vredesnaam Ellen hierna suggereren? Kon je echt geen andere link vinden dan “ach, het zijn allebei lesbiennes”?

Hannah Gadsby: Nanette, Netflix 2018

 

The dangerous art of blending in

I should have guessed something was up when I was walking home.

Somehow I expected a softer story: the title, the subject (teenager doesn’t dare to come out), the surroundings (a small American town). But the author doesn’t hold his punches, like the mother of the protagonist doesn’t. I know that’s considered a spoiler, but I feel like that subject should come with a warning.

Evan’s life isn’t an easy one. His mother views him as lazy and evil, and his father almost never steps in when she gets aggressive. He doesn’t dare to come out to anyone, and all his energy goes to keeping all his different worlds (home, church, school, friends) apart.

Things change when his good friend starts to change, and when someone from Bible-camp shows up. Collision happens, and Evan can’t stop it.

The language used is clean and honest. Sometimes the tone feels a little bit too much like that from an after school program, but one has to remember that first of all these are a teenager’s feelings, and second of all, this is all too often someone’s reality. Besides that, you just want better. And possibly push his mother into the Grand Canyon.

The dangerous art of blending in, Angelo Surmelis, HarperCollins 2018

The Dressmaker

Travellers crossing the wheat-yellow plains to Dungatar would first notice a dark blot shimmering at the edge of the flatness.

I completely understand why they turned this into a movie. Because The Dressmaker is not just a contained (small Australian village) story, it’s so full of detail that the visuals are already all there. Characters are clear cut, there’s an enticing plot of highs and lows and wardrobe can go all out because there’s nothing this dressmaker can’t make.

Tilly goes back to this small village of her birth, but even though she changed, the opinions on her and her mother didn’t. When discovering thus, she doesn’t accept it for the second time, but goes about it in a creative way.

That might make things sound like a thriller, but the back text calls it a shrewd comedy, and isn’t wrong in that. It’s a compact story as well; finding and watching the movie might take you longer. Is it still hot enough outside to call this a summer read?

The Dressmaker, Rosalie Ham, Duffy & Snellgrove 2000

Autoboyography

The end of our final winter break seems almost like the beginning of a victory lap.

Smartest title encountered this year or too thought through? Because y’all, this book is about two young book writers falling in love with each other! I think it’s cute, just as the story.

Tanner is a bisexual male teen that kind of goes back into the closet after his family moves to Utah, specifically a town with a Mormon majority. He’s not even out to his best friend, so how do you handle falling in love with the wonderful, beautiful, very Mormon TA?

It would have been easy to turn this into a pro or con story about religion and Mormons, but both authors stick close to the love story and darn, do they do it sweetly. Just like Tanner and Sebastian can’t seem to think about anything else, it’s sometimes a challenge to not discard the pages without them. Will they? Won’t they? In how many ways will organised religion ruin this?

Characters that aren’t these two sometimes get a bit the short end of the stick, but both secondary characters and surroundings make this a cute high school romance.

Autoboyography, Lauren Billings & Christina Hobbs, Simon & Schuster 2017

 

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

Film legend and ’60s It Girl Evelyn Hugo has just announced that she will auction off 12 of her most memorable gowns through Christie’s to raise money for breast cancer research.

No-one is (very) likeable in this story. Not that that is a requirement for a story (in my opinion), nor that it means that The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is less accessible and/or entertaining because of it. I’m just saying there isn’t much people to root for.

The stories are entertaining enough, old Hollywood glam with a woman who will do many things to get where she wants to go. Evelyn Hugo is the embodiment of self-made, and now, close to her death, she wants someone to write a biography of her. Journalist Monique doesn’t know why Evelyn picked her all of people to do so but don’t worry: you Will Find Out (dramatic soundtrack).

Per husband, Evelyn explains her life decisions and shares the saucy anecdotes freely. It’s a novel for those that like pretty things; romance and likeability is sacrificed for it. Is it too early to call this a proper beach read?

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, Taylor Jenkins Reid, Simon & Schuster 2017