Wednesday, February 20, 2013

William Friedkin

After the burlesque train wreck that was Minsky's, Friedkin returned to the theatre (the actual theatre) with another solid stage play adaptation transposed to the big screen. Like The Birthday Party, The Boys in the Band is built around a birthday gathering that devolves quickly into unease, queasy character assassinations, rained-on lasagna casserole rather than cake and ice cream. The difference here is the guests are all gay. Well, all except for one straight party-crasher (who's a likely closet case). Though the group is mostly out, they're not exactly out and proud. Some are still conflicted. Some are still hetero-married. It's the early '70s, only a year after Stonewall. These boys are still working things out.

What does Friedkin bring to the dinner party? His invisible cloak. He mostly recedes as a director in service of the material. In the case of Boys in the Band, that's probably a good thing. It's a well written piece. There are a few spots that scream auteur intrusion, primarily the buoyant opening credits that seem more in line with an episode of Gidget than a slow boil character ensemble drama. But maybe that was just a holdover from Friedkin's Sonny and Cher movie.

Watching the The Boys in the Band more than 40 years later, it's definitely a bit dated but still an obvious milestone in Queer Cinema. I'm guessing some of the dialogue was shocking in its frankness at the time. A few lines still carry the sharp ring of contemporary truth, even to this day.

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