Here's Looking at You, Boy (Shau Mir in die Augen, Kleiner)



BERLIN -- The subject is out of focus in "Here's Looking at You, Boy," a documentary about the emergence of gay cinema. Director Andre Schafer mixes talking heads with clips from highly selective movies of the 1970s onward without a clear agenda or point of view. Consequently, the less-than-incisive doc will be limited to gay film festivals and the DVD market.

Schafer admits he took pains to avoid territory already covered in the 1995 classic "The Celluloid Closet" and last year's "Fabulous! The Story of Queer Cinema." So the movie's direction appears to have been dictated by what film rights he could secure and what individuals would agree to appear on camera. Even then, some interviews get off the track with reminiscences about personal experiences as opposed to how such experienced are conveyed in movies.

Also there is a problem of definition. Is this a movie about gay directors or about gay subject matter in movies? The question really arises when he tackles Rainer Werner Fassbinder, a leader of the German new wave in the '70s. Talking about Fassbinder's sexuality in relationship to his cinematic achievements is as edifying as discussing Walt Whitman's sexuality in regards to his poetry. In both instances, this is decidedly beside the point.

The film skewers heavily toward northern European and U.S. movies. Passing mention of developing countries and a single film clip from India take care of the rest of the world. Little is made of lesbian films and there is a notable absence of people of color.

The clips themselves are often of poor quality. Then again, the interviews shot in Digi Beta look pretty washed out too.

The talking heads assembled are certainly an articulate lot. These include German pioneer Rosa Von Praunheim, Joseph Lovett, Stephen Frears (talking about "My Beautiful Laundrette"), Constantine Giannaris, Guinevere Turner, Gus Van Sant and Tilda Swinton (discussing her muse, Derek Jarman).

The movie has a few good laughs. Swinton recalls how Jarman, who was HIV-positive, raised money for years by insisting each film project would be "Derek Jarman's last film." And John Waters puzzles over the characters' dilemma in "Brokeback Mountain." "They can only get together twice a year for great sex," he muses. "Sounds perfect to me."

Writer/director: Andre Schafer
Producers: Marianne Schafer, Ingmar Trost
Director of photography: Bernd Meiners
Music: Ritchie Staringer
Editor: Martin Schomers
Running time -- 90 minutes
No MPAA rating