A Beautiful Weekend

Finally, a film that takes gay men and their relationships seriously. Thank you, Weekend, for telling it how it really is.

Thank goodness we don’t have to rely on Hollywood or indy US movies to tell gay stories on the big screen. If we did, all we’d see would be earnest ‘issue-based’ films that deal with discrimination, AIDS, coming out, first love or break taboos. Oh yes, there’s a place for them; it’s important that wider audiences sees these films, and the indy US films provide plenty of fodder for gay and lesbian film festivals and DVD releases the world over.

But thank goodness for the British film Weekend.

Tom Cullen and Chris New snuggle up in 'Weekend'.

Writer/director Andrew Haigh presents a simple story about two gay men, Russell (Tom Cullen) and Glen (Chris New), who pick each other up at a nightclub on a Friday night, and go back to Russell’s flat. It’s as they navigate that awkward ‘morning after’ dance that the connection is really made. And while the men acknowledge it was a fun, one-night-only thing – Glen is leaving for the United States on Sunday – Russell can’t help but think about Glen at work, and they catch up again later that afternoon. And the bond begins to strengthen.

What makes Weekend a remarkable and intelligent film is that it doesn’t try to be clever, or seminal, or groundbreaking. It’s just a story about love, loneliness and unexpected emotions. It’s told in a detached, matter-of-fact way that makes it incredibly powerful and poignant.

Cullen and New don’t perform their characters – they inhabit them naturally and completely believably, both as individuals and as a couple. There is a beautiful, relaxed intimacy between them; something that is immediately recognisable, and strangely enough, very rare in the depiction of gay lovers on screen. Hollywood especially steers clear of both man-on-man sex and intimacy. Weekend has some frank, not explicit, sex scenes and discussions about gay sex, but they’re never gratuitous or shocking. Like the connection between Russell and Glen, they’re presented as natural and sensitive, and for that reason, this is not a film about two men in love, but a film about the universality of falling in love, regardless of sexuality and gender.

Over the weekend, Russell and Glen discuss the nature of being gay, how they present themselves publicly, and how they feel they’re perceived by the wider world. It’s insightful and enlightening, but never didactic or preachy.

And while the film’s ending is inevitable, it doesn’t stop the final scenes from being incredibly moving. Well, they certainly affected me quite deeply.

Weekend is the type of gay story we need to see in films now. It’s time to move on from coming-out tales, and into mature and articulate stories like this. Gay filmmakers, take note please…

Watch the trailer.

January in Melbourne

January’s always a crazy month in Melbourne. Not only is the city teeming with tennis tourists for the Australian Open, but it’s Midsumma too; there’s Australia Day as well, and in the middle of it all, it’s my birthday. Today, in fact. And we’re very lucky this year, because we’re blessed with wonderfully hot Melbourne summer days. So I’ll be off to Prahran Pool later, because I can.

Before I do though, here’s a little Midsumma update. Last Friday night, my partner Kieran opened his show for 2012: Glenda Waverley presents Four Dead Divas. I helped out as a stagehand, naturally, and director Kevin McGreal doubled as sound and lights guy.

Glenda Waverley at Carnival last week. She may be a diva, but she ain't dead yet!

Glenda’s show this year is something of a departure from the usual drag or cabaret show; this one’s more of a lecture with music numbers, and Glenda examines why the gays have embraced four stars in particular, Dusty Springfield, Joan Crawford, Judy Garland and Elizabeth Taylor. They’re camp, they’re divas, and they’re dead.

It went down pretty well with the good-sized opening night audience. I think the highlights were Glenda channelling Faye Dunaway’s Joan Crawford as she launches into the notorious wire hangers tirade, and her performance of a slightly sozzled and tragic Judy belting out ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’. She tackles Liz’s embarrassing ‘Send in the Clowns’ admirably too. There’s one more show, this Friday night, January 27 at 10.30pm.

Saturday night, after a fraught and confused trip to Docklands – and can I just say, I’m not a fan of Docklands; not one of Melbourne’s finest hours – to find the Circus Oz Melba Speigeltent, where we saw our friend George in John Henry presents: Crack a Fat Circus.

'Crack a Fat Circus' (c) HONEphotography.com

It’s a cheeky and energetic show full of humour and acrobatic dexterity. It’s not overtly gay, but it doesn’t need to be; the sensibility is definitely present. There’s a lot of sexy content, such as sexy topless aerial artists, lithe women climbing all over each other, and an infectious exuberance that keeps you smiling.

Crack a Fat Circus is on till January 28, so find your way down to Docklands, and check it out.

The sun is beckoning now; best go and see what it wants…


And we’re off!

Welcome to The Urban Hunter, and thanks for joining me.

Just as a quick introduction to this blog, here’s a bit about myself, and what you’re likely to find here. Basically, it’s all about hunting down urban culture adventures and experiences.

I’m a Melbourne writer and reviewer of a certain age. I’ve been writing for about 20 years, mostly on film, TV, Arts, and occasionally music, fashion and contemporary culture. So expect to see posts about these things.

For example, I did enjoy Martin Scorsese’s new film Hugo, but I thought it didn’t really get going until Hugo and Isabelle became friends, and the story finally kicked in. Martin, you could have tightened that first half-hour up, and that would have made all the difference.

"Ah, that's the key to getting this movie going. I'd better get this to Martin Scorsese quick smart!"

George Clooney wonders if there'll be room in Hawaii for his Golden Globe AND an Oscar...

Another film that, for me, is receiving a lot of unnecessary praise, is The Descendants. Oh yes, George Clooney’s getting all the attention for an apparent ‘performance of his career’, but essentially it’s another story of a rich and privileged American family dealing with tragedy, secrets and emotions, but this time they live in Hawaii. That’s not a bad thing, but I found it hard to care.

Not the case with Weekend, a new British film about two gay men hooking up, but I’ll leave that for another post.

And yes, I am gay, so expect to see the occasional post about gay characters on the screen, and maybe even poolside and beachside swimwear reports over the summer.

I’m also a very proud Doctor Who fan – well, more than a fan; I’ve written about the show quite a lot as well, and interviewed many of the current cast. If you’re interested, you can check out my thoughts on the 2011 season at the ABC blog site. So the good Doctor will crop up here from time to time too.

As well as being in the tennis thrall of the Australian Open, Melbourne is also hosting Midsumma, the gay and lesbian cultural festival. I won’t be writing about the tennis, or Margaret Court, but I will talk about Midsumma shows and events.

Anyway, that’ll do for my first post. Hopefully I’ve piqued your interest, or scared you off. In either case, please feel free to drop by weekly, and let me know your thoughts, and your urban hunting adventures.