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Film Directors  
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Experimental lesbian filmmakers in America were strongly influenced by international trends, a process exemplified in the work of American-born Yvonne Rainer (b. 1936), who assimilated European trends while initially working there as a choreographer. Rainer's filmic output has moved from general concerns of female sexuality and subjectivity to address lesbian themes in later films such as Privilege (1990).

Key European figures include Belgian-born Chantal Akerman (b. 1950) whose technically sophisticated and introspective films critically assimilate the aesthetics of French new wave directors such as Jean Luc Godard. Akerman's films include such explorations of the complexities of subjectivity and desire as Je Tu Il Elle (1974) (in which Akerman herself acted a key role, and which had a huge impact upon release in America) and Les Rendez-vous d'Anna (1979).

In an altogether different mold, the surreally parodic historical fantasies of German director Ulrike Ottinger (b. 1942)--Madame X: An Absolute Ruler (1977) and Johanna D'Arc of Mongolia (1989)--have developed a cult following while forging a distinctive brand of lesbian camp.

Monika Treut (b. 1954), another controversial German director, has celebrated transgressive queer sexuality in films such as Seduction: The Cruel Woman (1985), a contemporary tale of sado-masochism. Her documentary Female Misbehaviour (1992) includes among its subjects academic Camille Paglia and performance artist Annie Sprinkle

In her first film, A Question of Silence (1982), Dutch-born Marleen Gorris (b. 1949) provoked debate with an unsparing critique of patriarchal oppression via a study of women driven to crime. Her other films include the much praised Antonia's Line (1995) and a version of Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway (1997), which skilfully employs flashback techniques to bring the novel's lesbian subtext to the fore.

Crossing Over

A major contribution to the integration of gay themes into mainstream cinema has been made by John Schlesinger (1926-2003), the openly gay British director whose films include Darling (1965); Midnight Cowboy (1969), which won the Best Picture Oscar; and Sunday Bloody Sunday (1971), a daring exploration of bisexuality.

Schlesinger's British contemporary, bisexual Tony Richardson (1928-1991), peppered an eclectic and distinguished career, which included a best director Oscar for Tom Jones (1963), with studies of sexual mavericks, as in his adaptations of Edward Albee's A Delicate Balance (1973) and John Irving's Hotel New Hampshire (1984).

More overtly avant garde and less commercially viable than his fellow Britons, Derek Jarman (1942-1994) specialized in visually lavish, outrageous yet fiercely intelligent productions of classics that bought subtextual queer elements to the fore in a way that emphasized their contemporary relevance: Jubilee (1977), The Tempest (1979), and Wittgenstein (1993).

Edward II (1991), based on Christopher Marlowe's play, exemplifies the Jarman touch via the skilful and provocative linkage of the persecution of Edward and his lover Piers Gaveston to the platforms of Margaret Thatcher's conservative government.

Another British filmmaker Terence Davies (b. 1945) came to the fore in the late 1980s with the first of his autobiographical films set in working-class Liverpool, Distant Voices, Still Lives (1988). This highly acclaimed film was followed by The Long Day Closes (1992). These "memory" films explore the dynamics of family relations in working-class Britain.

Davies then went on to make non-autobiographical works, such as The Neon Bible (1995), based on a novel by John Kennedy Toole, and The House of Mirth (2001), based on a novel by Edith Wharton.

James Bridges (1935-1993) first made his name as a television writer for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour during the early 1960s. He made his film directorial debut with The Babymaker (1970), which tackled the then controversial subject of surrogate motherhood. Bridges' first big success was The Paper Chase (1973), featuring Timothy Bottoms as a first-year law student and John Houseman as his rigorous professor. Bridges had another success with The China Syndrome (1979), featuring Jack Lemmon, Jane Fonda, and Michael Douglas.

The film of Bridges that may be the most homoerotic (despite its determinedly heterosexual plot) is Urban Cowboy (1980), featuring John Travolta and Debra Winger. Bridges' final film was the disappointing, Bright Lights, Big City (1988).

While Bridges never made an issue of his homosexuality, he lived openly with his longtime partner, actor Jack Larson. He died of cancer in 1993.

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