As the name suggests, this is a collection of ten movies on LGBT themes. In chronological order, here’s what we have:
The Children’s Hour (1961): Shirley MacLaine and Audrey Hepburn are the headmistresses of a girl’s school, and their lives are turned upside down when one ghastly little child accuses them of being romantically involved. It is clear, though, the MacLaine would very much like to be. This was director William Wyler’s second stab at adapting Lilllian Hellman’s play, and this time was able actually to deal with the play’s central issue, rather than disguise it as he had to
La Cage aux Folles (1979): Panic and chaos are the order of the day when Ugo Tognazzi and his transvestite partner Michel Serrault must pretend to be straight for the benefit of the conservative parents of Tognazzi’s son’s fiancée. Pure, frantic, very funny farce, with the always reliable Michel Galabru on hand to go apoplectic as the prospective father-in-law.
My Beautiful Laundrette (1985): Race, culture, social unrest, family pressures and homosexuality make for quite the heady yet tightly scripted brew in director Stephen Frear’s tale of two lovers crossing the Pakistani-English divide while trying to open the titular establishment. Featuring an early role for Daniel Day-Lewis.
The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994): Our road movie of the collection. The title character is a bus carrying drag queens (Hugo Weaving and Guy Pearce) and a transsexual (Terence Stamp) across Australia. A picaresque tale that is both hilarious and touching.
The Birdcage (1996): The American remake of La Cage aux Folles (or, to be perfectly accurate, the second take on the stage play) has a great cast: Robin Williams and Nathan Lane in the roles originated by Tognazzi and Serrault, Gene Hackman replacing Galabru. One can’t help but notice, though, that this version runs half an hour longer than the original.
Bent (1997): Clive Owen is a concentration camp prisoner who pretends to be Jewish, his logic being that it is better for the Nazis to think him Jewish than gay. There’s a premise that might raise a few eyebrows, but nonetheless this is engaged, committed filmmaking.
The Object of My Affection (1998): Jennifer Aniston decides she’d like her gay best friend to help raise her child rather than the actual father. As far as this comedy’s quality is concerned, it’s a Jennifer Aniston movie. Outside of The Good Girl, that’s pretty much all you need to know.
Boys Don’t Cry (1999): Hilary Swank won an Oscar for her astonishing turn as a young woman who decides to live as a male, with brutally tragic results.
Kissing Jessica Stein (2001): Clever rom-com. Jessica (Jennifer Westfeldt) has had a string of disappointing relationships with men, but can she actually go all the way with the bi-curious Helen (Heather Juergensen)?
Imagine Me & You (2006): On her wedding day, Piper Perabo locks eyes with florist Lena Headey, and emotional complications ensue. A British rom-com that is extremely nice to all its characters, but rather anemic when it comes to expressing passion.
There’s a blurb on the box by a writer for The Advocate, making the case that these films “reflect just how far the LGBT movement has evolved over the past four decades.” While there is some truth to the statement, I am nonetheless struck by the fact that these films are almost all either grim tragedies or wacky comedies. Still, while some of the offerings here aren’t exactly strong (Imagine Me & You is a weak end, and features what might be the most awkward, unconvincing clinch in film history), there are also plenty of truly superb films here.
A fairly wide range of quality here. For the most part, the transfers are excellent, featuring rich, strong colours (or, in the case of The Children’s Hour, stunning black-and-white), excellent blacks and contrasts, and natural skin tones. Grain, too, is, on balance, not an issue. But La Cage aux Folles is looking pretty rough. Its colours just scrape by, but the grain is horrendous. There’s no reason for a film from 1979 to look this old, especially given the excellent picture on the The Children’s Hour, nearly twenty years the sernior. All the films come in their original widescreen ratios, though fullscreen editions are also provided for The Birdcage and Imagine Me & You.
Similar deal here. Overall, the audio quality is very good, with the sound getting better as the films become more recent. These are all re-issues, not re-masters, so the quality is whatever was present when the respective disc was first released. So the 5.1 sounds superb, as one would expect, on Imagine Me & You. Some of the films are mono, and this mono sounds just fine on The Children’s Hour, but is just okay for My Beautiful Laundrette, being prone to some static and distortion. But once again, La Cage aux Folles disappoints (good thing the films is great). Sound effects here are badly distorted, and the volume is so low I had to crank it to absurdly high levels just to be able to make out the dialogue.
Boy’s Don’t Cry
Co-writer/director Kimberly Pierce provides an articulate, scripted-sounding but thoughtful piece here. There are, though, some rather long gaps where she falls silent.
Kissing Jessica Stein
I quote from my original review of the disc: “Two commentaries on offer here, one by director Charles Herman-Wurmfeld and cinematographer Lawrence Sher, the others by co-writers/co-producers/co-stars Heather Juergensen and Jennifer Westfeldt. Both tracks are very scene-specific and quite technical, though the sense of ownership that comes through in the second track makes it clear this is very much Jergensen and Westfeldt’s baby (the film is, after all, based on their play).”
Imagine Me & You
Writer/director Ol Parker’s commentary is so sweet and self-deprecating, I feel bad for not liking the movie more.
The Children’s Hour
La Cage aux Folles
My Beautiful Laundrette
The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
Theatrical Trailer and Teaser.
The Object of My Affection
Theatrical Trailer and TV Spots
Making-of Featurette (3:51): The usual piece of promo fluff.
Boys Don’t Cry
Theatrical Trailer, Teaser and 3 TV Spots
Making-of Featurette (4:14): Another glorified commercial.
Kissing Jessica Stein
Deleted/Alternate Scenes: Ten of them.
Making-of Featurette (8:49): Somewhat more informative than the others so far in the set.
Imagine Me & You
Q&A with Director and Cast (19:40): Much more in-depth than the usual featurette.
Director’s Statement (3:13): A heartfelt little introduction, which is also a rather moving tribute to how he and his wife got together.
Deleted/Extended Scenes (8:55): With intro and commentary by Parker. They are also available without the intro, and viewable one at a time.
The extras are a little thin, which isn’t a surprise, given that this is simply a repackaging of these films. But having them all together in one box is a good deal, and enough of them are memorable in their own right to make this a nice collection.