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Fabulous! The Story of Queer Cinema Reviews

Reviewed By: Brian J. Dillard

Cheery production values and an upbeat script lend this IFC documentary an aesthetic closer to a nostalgic VH1 celebration than to Vito Russo's seminal, still-haunting The Celluloid Closet. Yet Fabulous! The Story of Queer Cinema is a product of its times. Rather than an AIDS-era meditation on the power of representation, Fabulous! explores the explosion of gay images in millennial pop culture and traces it backward past Stonewall. Producer/directors Lisa Ades and Lesli Klainberg secured interviews with a who's who of contemporary gay performers and filmmakers, from actress Heather Matarazzo (who amusingly recounts how a scene in her breakthrough film, Welcome to the Dollhouse, helped her realize she was a lesbian) to directors Rose Troche and Todd Haynes and cultural critic B. Ruby Rich. As with any broad survey, the film often rushes through some important developments or misses them entirely. If this documentary were your only source of information, you'd think John Waters sprung fully formed from the head of Zeus rather than drawing inspiration from Paul Morrissey, the Kuchar brothers, and Kenneth Anger. Ultimately, however, Fabulous! The Story of Queer Cinema can only pack so much into its 80-minute running time. It does an admirable job of covering the contemporary American landscape, including films by and for female and nonwhite audiences. As a double feature with The Celluloid Closet, it would make a pretty good overview of the first 100 years of American gay cinema. Now if only somebody would perform a similar survey for the rest of the world.