A review of Suddenly, Last Summer

I decided to watch Suddenly, last summer when I watched The Celluloid Closet and realised how few of the films mentioned I had actually seen (or even heard about). The Celluloid Closet is a documentary about the portrayal of gays and lesbians in Hollywood films until the early 1990s. So I started with the lovely, cheerful Gentlemen prefer blondes, in which the scene between Marilyn Monroe and the head waiter is still in a corner of my head, but then decided to turn to a darker example. On top of highly-problematic portrayal of gayness, this film deals with two other issues I’m interested in: mental illness/psychiatric ‘care’, and Ancient Greek tragedy. It is also based on a Tennessee Williams play (I love A Streetcar named desire) and stars Elizabeth Taylor and Katharine Hepburn.

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The film opens on a lobotomy scene, in which the horror is conveyed by the panoply of surgical instruments. The drama starts as a young doctor answers the invitation of a rich philanthropist to try and secure funding for the state hospital in which he works (it’s almost as if the latest austerity measures were not the source of all woes in the public health sector?). Their meeting, however, turns out to be something very different from what we could have expected. Katharine Hepburn’s character is introduced in a beautifully-written quasi-monologue in which she reveals much about the themes of the movie. Her son’s homosexuality is heavily hinted at, as was the practice in those times of censorship according to The Celluloid Closet.

A Greek tragedy.

The Hidden.

Bechdel test.

And, finally, there is a review comparing Thor to Suddenly… I wish I wrote stuff like that. http://www.acidemic.com/id140.html

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