In 1992 a strange thing happened: American moviegoers couldn’t stop talking about a movie about a trans character. That film was “The Crying Game,” in which it’s revealed halfway through that the female love interest is in fact (spoiler) pre-op. One reason to love the ’90s is it finally unleashed an avalanche of LGBTQ bodies — historically mostly regulated to coded scene-stealers, besties and punchlines — upon movie screens.
- PHOTOS: Celebrities attend 'Avengers: Endgame' premiere in Los Angeles22 Pictures
- PHOTOS: Memorial spotlights the man behind Nipsey Hussle rap persona14 Pictures
The Metrograph’s “Queer ’90s” series spends October showing a diversity still lacking from multiplexes. The New Queer Cinema, birthed in the ’80s, was still going strong; Todd Haynes’ 1991 “Poison” even became a far-right bugaboo, and Derek Jarman left us with his heartbreaking swan song, “Blue,” composed of a single bright blue image over top passing voices, meant to convey the sight robbed of him by HIV. Art houses were flooded with River Phoenix telling Keanu Reeves he loved him in Gus Van Sant’s “My Own Private Idaho,” as well as Rose Troche’s “Go Fish,” Ang Lee’s “The Wedding Banquet” and the fabulous-o-rama Australian import “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.”
As for Hollywood, queer representation wasn’t always woke, even when it was noble (see: “In & Out”) or pure lipstick (“Cruel Intentions”). Robin Williams and Nathan Lane, as a longtime couple, couldn’t kiss in “The Birdcage,” and the love between the law-breakers of “Thelma & Louise” had to remain nudge-nudge. The inclusion of Paul Verhoeven’s “Basic Instinct” in the slate should prompt fun discussions of whether it’s homophobic, male gaze-y or subversive, with its bi femme fatale destroying a world of macho men who don’t know what hit them. (It’s probably all three.) There are plenty of obscurities and underground diamonds sprinkled throughout the heavy-hitters, and now’s a good time to revisit Angelina Jolie’s finest work: as the swaggering, self-destructive model of “Gia.”
"Queer '90s" runs from Oct. 5 through Oct. 30 at The Metrograph, 7 Ludlow St., NYC. Visit the site for showtimes and tickets.
Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge