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"Lust for Love: Like It Is "
Like It Is, Channel Four Films 1998, directed by Paul Oremland; reviewed by Simon-Astley Scholfield, 2 Sep. 1999
There's something deliciously camp about a young gay guy jogging about and pumping iron in his tracksuit like Sylvester Stallone in Rocky (John G. Avildsen, 1976) but to a piercing soprano Jimmy Somerville soundtrack. The song could have been "Small Town Boy", because Craig (Steve Bell) -- the wiry pretty-boy fighter -- has made it from Blackpool to London on the rocky road toward coming out. These punching scenes, however, arrive near the film's climax: when Craig's back in Blackpool, having come a long way too fast but not quite out far enough ...

Like It Is starts out with Craig abandoning his living as an illegal bare-knuckle fighter in the Northern English seaside town and heading to London to track down slightly-older and already-out Matt (Ian Rose), after a disastrous but magnetic one night stand. The chemistry's still there on their second meeting, and after Craig moves in, their engaging romance gradually enrages both Matt's flatmate, Paula (Dani Behr), and his gay boss, Kelvin (Roger Daltrey).

Matt disc-jockeys at a gay nightclub and promotes new artists for Kelvin, a recording company executive. Paula needs Matt to boost her waning career. Kelvin needs him to sell the latest Brit Pop boy group. Both are envious of Craig's increasing consumption of Matt's time...

This film samples some of the best moments of Queer gay cinema (and parodies straight male films like Rocky), and like a good club mix is worthy of a wide audience. Touché to The Classic for again screening a clever and entertaining Queer film.

The dialogue between Craig and Matt isn't as complex or provoking as that between the two men on a one night stand in the excellent Together Alone (P.J. Castellaneta, 1992). The action and tension isn't as manic as that between the two HIV+ lovers in influential gay road movie The Living End (Gregg Araki, 1992). Yet Like It Is blends some of the best of both these North American movies, also with great casting. Bell and Rose make a photogenic pair and their fluid verbal exchanges in a stolen car and spellbinding safe sexual exchanges outdoors in a boat, are both hot.

Daylight home video-style shots of same-sex affection in London's queer streets set an atmosphere of youthful and active anti-homophobic defiance. Particularly salient considering that a nailbomb exploded in a gay nightclub in a vicious attack on the city's queer community one evening this year.

The lanky leading lads in Like It Is are more attractive than the gay teens in Beautiful Thing (Hettie MacDonald, 1996) and ironically so, considering that Paul Oremland's debut film satirises the obsessions with beauty, youth and drugs in gay clubland culture. These desires are encapsulated in the figure of Kelvin, the middle-aged queen who doesn't believe in love, worships his collagen therapist, deals out Es and buys young men with his pink dollar. Daltry is superb in this rather repulsive fatherly role and sure, there are shallow Kelvins in the real gay world.

But hey, reality also means loving middle-aged out gay men who are happily single (or partnered or in between), with healthy wholistic and Leftist outlooks (whether HIV+ or -). Take this confession as more of a criticism of queer cinema on the whole than of the thoroughly moving Like It Is in particular: Watching spunky young men coming out and getting (it) into each other is fine, but I'd just like to sometimes lie back in my seat in the dark savouring one (or more) of those nice older greying gay daddy figures above me on the big screen. Like, that too is occasionally how it is for me!

Like It Is, by Channel Four Films 1998.
Director: Paul Oremland.
Scriptwriter: Robert Gray.
Cinematographer: Alistair Cameron.
Production Designer: Tim Sykes.
Costume Designer: Sarah Bowern.
Cast: Steve Bell, Ian Rose, Dani Behr, Roger Daltrey, P.J. Nicholas, Charles Hargreaves.
Citation reference for this article Simon-Astley Scholfield. "Lust for Love: 'Like It Is'." M/C Reviews 2 Sep. 1999. [your date of access] .

1999, 2006 © Simon Astley Scholfield