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European Film  
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Almodóvar's most significant gay-themed film, as well as his self-confessed most personal work, is La ley del deseo (Law of Desire, 1987). This intricately plotted film--part fantasy, part murder mystery, and part erotic comedy--centers around Pablo, a gay writer/director deeply in love with a young man, Juan, who will not respond to his affections. Under Almodóvar's direction, the film becomes both an appreciation of, and a satire on, the conventions of romantic love.

One of the earliest Spanish directors working within queer cinema is the Basque-born Eloy de la Iglesia. Outspokenly gay, de la Iglesia has stated that his films are about "the world of which the majority of filmmakers do not care to speak, the marginal world." His films often feature gay, or otherwise marginalized, characters. De la Iglesia has explained that he is a director who "always wants to make the films that are not supposed to be made," on subjects that "everyone else has agreed not to talk about." Despite censorship constraints and hostile reactions from Catholic leaders to many of his films, de la Iglesia has enjoyed commercial success as a director, especially in Spain.

De la Iglesia began his film career in 1966 with Fantasia . . . 3, a collection of three short films based on children's stories by Hans Christian Andersen, L. Frank Baum, and the Grimm brothers. His first commercial achievement in his native country was El techo de cristal (The Glass Ceiling, 1971); two years later saw de la Iglesia's first international success with the release of La semana del asesino (Week of the Killer/Cannibal Man, 1974), a violent account of a young man who goes on a killing spree. The film also includes a gay character who is presented in an open, non-stereotypical, manner.

The death of Francisco Franco in 1975 brought more latitude and a new openness for artists in Spain. As a result, de la Iglesia created Los placeres ocultos (Hidden Pleasures, 1977), the first gay film to be produced in Spain. The film concerns a closeted homosexual banker attracted to a poor, heterosexual young man. The banker brings the young man into his life, and although the attraction is one way, the youth is accepting of the situation and even brings his girlfriend into the arrangement.

In 1979, de la Iglesia returned to a similar subject with El Diputado (The Deputy / Confessions of a Congressman), the story of a married gay congressman who risks his political career when he falls in love with a young man and attempts to integrate the man into his family life. The homosexual affair in this film, however, ends tragically.

De la Iglesia continued his career with such films as El sacerdote (The Priest, 1979), which was banned by the Catholic Church and heavily censored upon its initial release; Colegas (Pals, 1980); and El pico (The Shoot, 1983). After an absence of 15 years, de la Iglesia returned with Los novios búlgaros (Bulgarian Lovers, 2003), a comedy of sexual obsession, about a middle-aged gay lawyer who falls in love with a handsome, young foreigner.

Other Notable European Films

Other notable filmmakers in the history of European glbtq cinema include Belgian-born Chantal Akerman, whose works, typically filmed in a direct but distanced manner, address such themes as alienation, voyeurism, and marginalization. Je, tu, il, elle (1974) concerns a young woman's quest for sexual knowledge; in the final section of the film the young woman, played by Akerman herself, shows up at another woman's house where they proceed to make love. Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1976), perhaps Akerman's best-known film, focuses on a young, middle-class widow whose life begins to unravel as she rigorously tries to maintain her role as housewife and mother, while discreetly serving as a prostitute.

Italian director Ettore Scola's Una giornata particolare (A Special Day, 1977), starring Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni, concerns a woman who befriends her homosexual neighbor on the eve of Hitler's 1938 visit to Fascist Italy.

The Danish films Du er ikke alene (You Are Not Alone, 1978), co-directed by Ernst Johansen and Lasse Nielsen, and Venner for altid (Friends Forever, 1987), directed by Stefan Henszelman, both deal with the confusions of gay male teenagers coming to terms with their homosexuality.

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