As regular readers of this blog will know, I always try to organise myself for an epic day of film watching at the Glasgow Film Festival. There’s always so many things I want to see and even when I worked in Glasgow there was never enough time to see them all. This year I decided to pick a theme as my more successful previous trips have had that in common. Given my avowed desire to watch 25 feature documentaries this year, choosing the Stranger Than Fiction documentary strand seemed the obvious choice. So, on Saturday I headed to Glasgow to see three documentary films back to back at the CCA. As I tweeted on the day: ‘Yes usher, I would most DEFINITELY like a cushion.’
First up was a little bit of a strange choice, Burroughs: The Movie a documentary about William S Burroughs from 1983. I’m not a great fan of the beat poets and the romanticism and mythologizing that goes on around them and their work. I’ve been trying to read On the Road on and off for years and mostly having to leave off because I wanted to smack Jack Kerouac round the head with the book. (I did enjoy the film of Howl but I suspect that the less I know about the people involved personally the more I like their work.) It’s really quite an odd experience to watch a documentary about a man who comes across a delightfully eccentric old gay man, when previously the main thing I knew about him was that he killed his wife in a drunken game of ‘William Tell’…
Second up was the rather more modern and more kitschly strange film Electric Boogaloo: The Untold Story of Cannon Films. For the uninitiated Cannon were responsible for such gems as Superman 4 and Masters of the Universe…oh and Zefferelli’s version of Othello. The driving force behind the company was a duo of Israeli cousins who moved to Hollywood and set about making the oddest mix of films. I get the impression that they wanted to be the kind of Hollywood studio that hasn’t existed since the 30s, churning out historical epics, action adventure films and musicals – without the Hayes code restrictions. What they actually made were closer to a cross between 1950s B movies and 70s exploitation films. The interviewees are an odd mix of actors who almost all despise them and technicians and other former staff who are an odd mix of affectionately loyal and despairingly frustrated in the ‘we could have had it all’ mould, The bittersweet outcome of the film is that some of the team that worked with them mostly learned what not to do and now make slightly toned down version of exactly the same kind of films to much greater success. They were pioneers and trailblazers, and good taste was a stranger to them, but as a lover of terrible 80s B movies I salute them. Some of us like Masters of the Universe.
Last but not least was arguably the best and most interesting of the three documentaries and the one I most wanted to see. Limited Partnership is the story of a 40-year battle for a US/Australian gay couple to have their marriage acknowledged and accepted to allow them to stay together. It’s a sweet and heart-breaking story of love, friendship, family and state intolerance. In its way it’s a history of the gay rights movement in the US and a lesson in the way that any civil rights movement is not a straight line from intolerance to tolerance, with steps forward and backwards along the way. Tony and Richard are such articulate advocates for their cause, so unflinching in their loyalty to and love for each other that its hard to comprehend that anyone could consider there to be anything ‘limited’ and lacking about their partnership.