Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman

Sog.: Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman, Sharon Wood da libro The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies (1981) di Vito Russo. Scen.: Armistead Maupin. F.: Nancy Schreiber. M.: Jeffrey Friedman, Arnold Glassman. Scgf.: Scott Chambliss. Mus.: Carter Burwell. Int.: Lily Tomlin (voce narrante), Armisted Maupin, Susie Bright, Gore Vidal, Paul Rudnick, Tom Hanks, Quentin Crisp, Susan Sarandon, John Schlesinger, Harvey Fierstein, Tony Curtis. Prod.: Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman per Telling Pictures. DCP. Bn e Col.

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman demonstrated how indispensable independent gay cinema is when, to celebrate cinema’s centenary in their own way, in 1995 they produced and directed The Celluloid Closet, a montage film inspired by Vito Russo’s book. Adapted for the screen by Armistead Maupin (author of Tales of the City, on which a successful TV series was based) and with narration by Lily Tomlin, the film is a rare example of a film based on an essay. It was the product of Russo’s own wishes and he died of Aids in the knowledge that it would be completed and would stick fairly closely to the framework of the book. It constitutes an excellent example both of the positivity of this kind of cinema and of the unshakeable passion of certain militant gays who, through every means at their disposal, managed to secure a budget of $1.5million and viewed thousands of extracts, many sourced from the most disparate of film archives. The end result is incredibly suggestive…
With great elegance and efficiency, Epstein and Friedman employ a chronological structure to render absolutely clear the unstoppable progress with which homosexuality has gained visibility (if not necessarily credibility) in American cinema. It progresses from a pre-cinema Edison fragment (1885) in which two men dance lovingly to the accompaniment of a gramophone, through to contemporary films, some of which were made after Russo’s death (such as Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Go Fish and Philadelphia). Interspersed among these clips are interviews with well-known personalities (directors, screenwriters and actors, from Quentin Crisp to Susan Sarandon, from John Schlesinger to Harvey Fierstein, and from Tony Curtis to Gore Vidal).
Carefully selected and edited extracts from 122 films are supported by the sumptuous music of Carter Burwell. This gives the film an epic feel, which bolsters the perhaps excessively optimistic tone (nonetheless consistent with Russo, who argued that in the future “gays will inevitably become accepted and integrated into society”) and accentuates the film’s powerful and edifying emotional charge.

Vincenzo Patanè, afterword to Vito Russo, Lo schermo velato. L’omosessualità al cinema, Baldini&Castoldi, Milan 1999


Copy From

Restored in 4K by Sony Pictures Classics in collaboration with UCLA Film & Television Archive and Mk2 at MTI Film laboratory, from the original 35mm interpositives