The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies Paperback – 30 Sep 1987
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Examines the portrayal of homosexual characters in the movies and how it reflects society's beliefs and misconceptions.
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The only major flaw of this book is that his author died of AIDS in 1990. Therefore, the book stops in the mid 80s. It offers no analysis of the incredible changes and yet shortcomings of the last 20 years.
Even though it now retails for a rather stiff price, it's certainly worth every cent. It will change your view of gay movies, of gay history but also of Hollywood and contemporary American history.
The position Russo takes and the interpretations he offers are nothing short of fascinating, and THE CELLULOID CLOSET holds up extremely well to re-reading. Even so, it is essentially an excellent work by an amateur writer. For all the power of its interpretations and arguments, the text is badly structured, and too often the tone of the prose seems less about the films under consideration than about the personality that considers them. And there are frequent factual errors in the text, with Russo's comments on the cult favorite The Rocky Horror Show perhaps the most glaring case in point.
Although Russo's omnipresent personality tends to undercut his prose at times, it is an engaging personality, and in a certain sense it drives the narrative--and indeed does a great deal to make the book's shifting structure seem more acceptable than it would have otherwise been. And after a careful re-reading of the text, I have come to the conclusion that the errors involved are best described as "surface" errors; they do not seem to me to undercut the power of Russo's interpretations, arguments, or positions, all of which are extremely well presented and very astute. Even so, given the book's somewhat problematic nature, I would take issue with those who describe it as "definitive," which is a rather sweeping word. I would prefer to describe it as a fascinating analysis of a difficult subject written by a gifted amateur author--who manages to overcome his limitations to present an endlessly fascinating series of interpretations, arguments, and positions. The book deserves a place on the bookshelf of every one who loves film as much as the writer did, and I recommend it strongly. But it would be a mistake to take it as an absolute.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer