Some of you may have already caught on that I am a huge film buff. My favorite films are independent and experimental, portraying life as the artist sees and experiences it. I also find myself especially moved by pictures made by queer filmmakers. One film that I’ve recently watched for the second time is Poison. I was exposed to this film in a class taught by Jennie Livingston and when I first watched it, I didn’t have much of an idea of what was going on and it made me EXTREMELY uncomfortable. This is something that I find of the utmost importance in my development as an artist. This film has changed my way of seeing.
Poison is a film written and directed by Todd Haynes, who is also known for creating “Velvet Goldmine,” “I’m Not There,” and “Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story” (All of which I’ve seen, but have not moved me as deeply as Poison). The film explores the writings of Jean Genet (who wrote the plays “The Balcony” and “The Maids” as well as the novel “Our Lady of The Flowers”) through a contemporary, cinematic lens. This translates into three sections that catapult Genet’s world into the universes depicted in this 1991 film. Haynes portrays homo-eroticism in the most sensual and horrifying ways, addresses the tragedies experienced by gay youth and alludes to the AIDS crisis using stark metaphors. Three tales are presented that are completely contrasting in form, content and style, yet they seamlessly flow into one raucously disturbing experience. Having seen Genet’s Un Chant D’Amour (which I also highly recommend for viewing), I think Todd Haynes encapsulates the voice of Genet, yet honors the moment in which the film was conceived. What means the most to me is that I am not able to watch the film without feeling. I am on edge in the process of viewing this film, especially because, since the director and I are both queer, it is a world I feel like I know with both love and fear.
The film is available on Netflix for Instant Viewing now! Also, I just watched Todd Haynes’ 1994 short “Dottie Gets Spanked.” This is also an excellent film that deepens some of the explorations in “Poison” depicting the experience of young gay children. I look to Todd Haynes for courage to share my voice as a queer artist without shame or censorship.