And we have reached the last film in the Pioneers of Queer Cinema bundle! I really do recommend checking these films out,
and I believe that the day I post this review (Friday, June 26th) is the last day all three are available NOPE TURNS OUT THIS IS AN ONGOING THING! But when/if you purchase a movie you have between 5 and 10 days to watch it, depending on whether you pick an individual movie or the bundle. Okay, enough unpaid shilling, let’s talk about Michael, a the gay silent film of the trio.
The movie focuses on a man referred to mostly as the Master, a renowned painter, and his live-in model, the titular Michael. Princess Zamikow come around and requests a painting from the Master, but after accepting the order he finds himself unable to finish the piece. Michael, slightly jealous that the Master is paying so much attention to the Princess, starts to fall for the woman. After Michael finishes the eyes of the painting, it’s revealed to the public and is poorly received. Well, except for the eyes, so that’s a kick in the dick. The Master secludes himself to work on his next piece. Michael spends less and less time with him and more and more time with the princess, who is revealed to be broke and is surviving on the money generated by Michael selling gifts from the Master (and possibly stealing stuff, it’s a bit vague). The new painting, that of a man who has lost everything, is a hit, but Michael doesn’t attend the unveiling. The Master falls ill, but Michael still doesn’t visit him on his deathbed. He dies, and a journalist friend (who had tried repeatedly to convince the Master that Michael was a fuckboi) shouts the sad news at Michael, then walks away. There’s also a side plot about a woman who looks like she’s always about to fall asleep and a duel to the death, but it has next to nothing to do with the main plot.
Compared to the others, there’s not as many queer people involved with this film. It’s based on a novel by a gay man–Herman Bang–but the director was a fairly conservative straight guy and the main actors all appear to be heterosexual. Not to say that they’re not interesting: Michael was played by Mr. Walter Sleazak, who my dad recognized as a noteworthy actor from the 50’s (but for me he was the Clock King in the Adam West Batman show); Princess Zamikow was the spoiled duchess in an forgotten, 1921 German version of The Man Who Laughs; and the Master was Benjamin Christensen, the writer/director/Devil from Häxan, a pseudo-documentary about witchcraft. And I gotta say, Christensen’s Master was a fascinating character, often giving an amazing performance just through his stares and glares.
And this brings to a close the Pioneers of Queer Cinema bundle! Three films from nearly 100 years ago, chock full of as much queer content as they could fit in before the rise of Hitler. Turns out the Weimar Republic was a great time for queer filmmakers! But these were it, right? What’s that? There was also the 1919 film, Anders als die Andern, which is believed to be the first pro-gay film ever made? Well… don’t be surprised if I talk about that in the near future.
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