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Van Sant's first feature-length film, Mala Noche (1985), based on an autobiographical novella by Walt Curtis, concerns the passionate, but unrequited, love of an openly gay liquor store clerk for a teenage illegal alien from Mexico. The visually innovative, black-and-white film won nearly unanimous praise for the frank, non-judgmental, depiction of its marginalized characters.

Drugstore Cowboy (1989), co-written with Daniel Yost and based on a novel by James Fogle, focuses on two young couples who rob pharmacies to support their drug addiction. Notably absent from the script is any moralizing about drug use.

My Own Private Idaho (1991), an ambitious film inspired by Shakespeare's Henry IV, focuses on the friendship between two teenage male hustlers. As with his two previous films, Van Sant artfully explores such concepts as unrequited love, alienation, and the concept of family.

Other films both written and directed by Van Sant include Even Cowgirls Get the Blues (1993), one of his rare artistic failures, based on the Tom Robbins cult novel; Gerry (2002), a minimalist experiment about two friends who get lost while on a hike in the California desert, with a script attributed to Van Sant in collaboration with the film's two stars Casey Affleck and Matt Damon; and Elephant (2003), inspired by the mass shootings at Columbine High School in 1999, which utilizes a loose, spontaneous narrative structure and visual style. Although Van Sant is credited with the script, the dialogue, similar to Gerry, seems mainly to have been improvised by the film's young actors.

Todd Haynes's complex and controversial experiments with genre, narrative, and character identification have earned him outstanding critical acclaim and positioned him as one of the leading figures of the New Queer Cinema. Haynes debuted in 1985 with the short film Assassins: A Film Concerning Rimbaud, a stylized study of the violent love affair between the French poets Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine. Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story (1987), which Haynes co-wrote with Cynthia Schneider, is a 43-minute film examining the career of 1970s pop singer Karen Carpenter as enacted not by actors but by a cast of Ken and Barbie-type dolls.

The writings of Jean Genet were the inspiration for Haynes's first feature-length film, Poison (1991). The film weaves together three seemingly unconnected stories (the first, about a boy's murder of his abusive father; the second, concerns a scientist who turns into a monster after ingesting the human sex drive in liquid form; and the final story, an unrequited love affair between two men in prison), each told in its own distinctive style and juxtaposed so that they comment on one another.

Haynes has described Poison as "an attempt to link homosexuality to other forms that society is threatened by--deviance that threatens the status quo of our sense of what normalcy is." Although attacked by right-wing extremists as pornography, Poison is considered by most critics a defining work of the New Queer Cinema.

While Safe (1995), about a woman seemingly allergic to her very environment, is devoid of any overt gay content, some writers have interpreted the mysterious affliction in the film as a metaphor for the AIDS virus. Told in a visually austere style, the film is also notable for its dialogue, which Haynes consciously wrote to expose the way people speak to each other without actually communicating.

In Velvet Goldmine (1998), Haynes explores the glam-rock scene of the early 1970s--a world of flamboyant theatrics and androgynous imagery. The film posits Oscar Wilde as the original "pop idol," and the self-consciously transgressive glam-rock stars as Wilde's direct descendants; much of the film's dialogue directly refers to Wilde's writings.

Without resorting to either parody or camp, Far from Heaven (2002) pays tribute to, as well as deconstructs, Douglas Sirk's domestic melodramas of the 1950s, such as Magnificent Obsession (1954) and All That Heaven Allows (1955). Significantly, Haynes's film tackles such social issues as homosexuality and racism that Sirk's were never allowed to explore.

Another key figure in the New Queer Cinema movement, Gregg Araki, garnered praise for The Living End (1992), the story of two young HIV-positive gay men on a crime spree. Other films written and directed by Araki include the ménage à trois drama Three Bewildered People in the Night (1987); The Long Weekend (O'Despair) (1989), about a group of college graduates brooding over their future; the "teen apocalypse trilogy," which includes Totally F***ed Up (1993), The Doom Generation (1995), and Nowhere (1997), all of which focus on bored, alienated Los Angeles teenagers; the screwball comedy Splendor (1999); and Mysterious Skin (2004), a drama based on the novel by Scott Heim.

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