In the 1950s, a small-town Catholic priest suffering from some serious sexual hangups and with way too much time – and power – in his hands had ordered that scenes depicting any and all forms of human sensuality be cut from films screened at the local movie house. Projectionist Philippe Noiret, however, saved all those precious moments in his own private movie reel. Following his death, that reel is given to his boy assistant, now a grown man – and a filmmaker to boot – played by Jacques Perrin.
When Perrin sits down in a screening room to watch the reel he is moved to tears, for he realizes the significance of those faded, scratchy bits of celluloid. And even though I didn’t grow up in a small Italian town and the priests at my old Catholic school weren’t quite as rabidly anti-movie sex (and even if they were, they didn’t have the power to censor anything), the first time I watched Cinema Paradiso I got as misty-eyed as Perrin’s character.
Come to think of it, I still do every time I watch Maria Schell steal a kiss from Marcello Mastroianni in White Nights, Silvana Mangano display her earthy sensuality in Bitter Rice, Jane Russell beg for a kiss (and more) in The Outlaw, Farley Granger lift Alida Valli’s veil in Senso, and Martine Carol look heartbroken in a movie I haven’t been able to identify.
A few weeks ago, a friend sent me a link to a gay kiss montage he’d found on youtube. When I finally checked it out, I was quite impressed by this homosexual – both male and female – variation of the final sequence in Cinema Paradiso. (The kissers and kissees had changed, but Ennio Morricone’s music remained the same.)
Film clips include those from Chasing Amy, The Hours, Broken Hearts Club, Kissing Jessica Stein, Bedrooms and Hallways, several Boys Briefs shorts, and, inevitably, Tom Selleck and Kevin Kline in In & Out.
After watching the gay kiss montage, I decided to ask its creator, Robert Eldredge (above right), a few questions about the whys and hows of his project. After all, same-sex kissing is as much a taboo in both mainstream and (most) independent American movies (and in movies from most elsewhere, for that matter) as hetero kissing was for Cinema Paradiso‘s sexually repressed priest.
Eldredge, who has also created several youtube montages of “American musicals” (though I noticed that the Australian Strictly Ballroom managed to sneak into the mix), has kindly agreed to send me his responses. See below.
Smooching it up in Summer Storm
What made you decide to create the gay kiss montage?
In 2003, the owner of gay pride stores in Las Vegas and Fort Lauderdale asked if I would create a video to be played in the video rental section of his stores to promote the gay-themed videos.
Why did you choose those particular clips?
I used clips that were from just about every gay movie that was out at the time. If it was man on man or girl on girl I used it. The kisses I used were about all that was available at the time. Obviously, now there are many more to choose [from], but at the time I had to use every one I could find.
Were there clips you wanted to use but weren’t able to?
Yes. I wanted very much to use the kiss in Bound , between Gina Gershon and Jennifer Tilly, but the scene was lit very dark and you can’t see what is happening especially when it is taken out of context. I would also have loved to use some of the kissing scenes in Brokeback Mountain, but it came out three years later. I may add a scene from [it to the montage] in the future.
In “Cinema Paradiso” a Catholic priest demands that kisses, nudity, and other forms of human sensuality be cut from films. Heterosexual kisses and non-full-frontal nude scenes aren’t deemed risqué anymore, but what’s your view on today’s portrayal (or lack thereof) of on-screen homosexual kissing and/or sensuality?
Ten years ago there was only a fraction of the gay cinema we have today. In time, we will see a lot more mainstream gay kissing. TV is the one medium that is most resistant to change, but as society changes so does television. Thank God for HBO.
What kind of response have you received for your gay kiss montage?
The response has been very positive from both the stores and youtube. It is the kind of thing that can turn anyone into a romantic. I have also gotten minimal negative feedback from a few Nazi types, but that is to be expected.
Are you currently working on any more film clip montages? If so, can you tell us about your new projects?
I am not doing any more montages. I have a few old ones that I have not posted yet (a surf montage and a beach party dance), but I will not be making any more [of those]. I want to make something original, something that is all my own. I have not decided what my next project will be. Maybe something about global warming or animal conservation, or maybe [Black Panther activist] Assata Shakur.
And the inevitable question: Do you have a favorite kissing scene, whether homo or hetero?
Of course. Julianne Moore’s scene [in which Moore kisses Toni Collette] in The Hours, Spidey [Tobey Maguire] and M.J. [Kirsten Dunst] in the first Spider-Man, and the kiss scene by the tree [between Glen Berry and Scott Neal, above] in Beautiful Thing.