The Reckless Moment

Two Pioneers of the New Queer Cinema Look Back on a Short-Lived Sensation

TK: Isn't the battle only won when we stop having this discussion? I think of Agnès Varda—how some people pigeonhole her as a "female director," especially in relationship to the New Wave. I'm a huge fan of Cléo From 5 to 7. Why isn't that talked about the same way as Breathless? I wonder how she would describe her work in direct relation to feminism. Some might say that Cléo could only have been made by a woman. I don't know, the idea of making identity-based films feels limiting. Most of us are walking contradictions.

CM: It's interesting that some of Varda's more uncategorizable films are the ones that are least often shown. Like Lions Love or Kung-Fu Master, my favorite of hers.

TK: I don't think it's an accident that there's no overt gay content in [Todd Haynes's] Safe. Each one of Todd's films for me is a statement of his diverse interests. But I thought Safe was maybe his queerest movie. And not just because James LeGros and Peter Friedman are playing gay characters—apparently Todd only found out afterward that the actors had decided their characters were boyfriends.

"I never made a so-called gay film that had an immediate, ready audience": Christopher Münch (right) with Tom Kalin.
photo: Dennis Kleiman
"I never made a so-called gay film that had an immediate, ready audience": Christopher Münch (right) with Tom Kalin.

Do you feel out of sync with the rest of the independent film world?

TK: There's a funny quote from Jack Smith in the book J. Hoberman edited [On Jack Smith's "Flaming Creatures"]. He wrote in a grant application that for him the process of making a film is not a matter of years but decades. Which I just took great solace in. It's OK that some of us take a long time to steep our tea.

CM: Yeah, it's tastier.

TK: The frustration of wanting to make, almost making, not making can distract you. But I've come to terms with having an eclectic career. There was a point in the early '90s when making short work as a primary focus was not considered viable. I don't think that's the case now. There's been a real proliferation of short work, especially by people in their twenties, that I find reassuring. It's led to a revived underground, and people working in different forms. I feel like I'm in good company. Also, I'm incredibly stubborn about making the movies I want to make.

CM: That's the thing. The older you get, the more unyielding the conditions of satisfaction get. You really can't adopt a way of working that's inauthentic. It becomes harder and harder to do anything but what you do.

See also: Vision Quest: Searching for Diamonds in the Rough by B. Ruby Rich

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