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kenmorefield

The Crying Game

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It's hard to say how "obvious" the "surprise" should have been, since I was only 22 and still firmly ensconced in church culture when I saw this film, and thus completely clueless about the world outside.

I know some of the older, more secularized people I knew at the time had a "well I saw THAT coming" reaction to the film, but for me, the "surprise" was actually quite devastating (and I saw the film pretty early in its release, on February 2 1993, before anybody KNEW there was a "surprise"; I went in expecting a political thriller). I realized that I was still sexually attracted to Dil -- "her" walk, "her" clothing, "her" mannerisms -- even after I had discovered what was under "her" skirt. And since I was breaking up with a girlfriend around that time, I actually began to wonder if I might have latent gay tendencies myself. Stupid and illogical, I know, but there it is. I remember coming home from the movie and reading certain biblical passages on sexuality again and again, as if to confirm that they were still there. And I remember avoiding talking about this in my diary, which I kept in the days before e-mail, until a few weeks had gone by; I kept hoping I would forget it, but no, I began every day with a few moments of bliss which were then immediately crushed when I remembered the thoughts that had been plaguing me the day before, and I realized I would never cherish those early-morning moments of bliss until they were gone from me for that day. It was quite the mindf---. When a year or two had gone by and I felt that I could talk about this with select friends, I told them it felt like I had been raped, and the rapist had sneered, "But you LIKED it, DIDN'T you?"

In fairness, there were a few other things that contributed to this crisis of mine. I had read Discover's special sex-themed issue not too long before this, and had learned about intersexuality, and was beginning to wonder what sense clear-cut biblical rules about sexuality might make if we didn't have clear-cut definitions of gender. I had stopped attending Wednesday-night College & Career meetings so that I could take an evening class on the Philosophy of Religion at UBC. I had moved back into my parents' place, and they had moved out into the boonies, so I now had an awfully long commute to school and church. So my life was in a bit of upheaval, and I wasn't as anchored to certain things as I had been before.

And on the evening that I saw The Crying Game itself, before I met the friends with whom I saw it, I sat in a library across the street from the theatre and read a book on Monty Python, in which I discovered that Graham Chapman was gay, and an issue of Entertainment Weekly, which included a basically positive review of three children's books on growing up with gay parents -- and I was still ensconced enough in my churchy world that I simply couldn't fathom how a mainstream magazine could give a positive review to something like that. So when I saw The Crying Game later that evening, my evangelical tendency to hear God speaking whenever things happened in "threes" got the best of me, I'm afraid.

Anyway, a few interesting things came out of this.

One, the day after I saw the film, I saw an ad in one of the student papers looking for writers, and despite the fact that I had avoided working for the student press for a few years because I was afraid I would come into close contact with "liberal" people (particularly gays, I must admit), I signed up. I couldn't hide any more. And then I found I LIKED writing for papers. And thus I am now a journalist.

Two, I began taking a much harder look at a lot of the beliefs and assumptions that I had grown up with, and when I finally got access to e-mail and newsgroups in late '94, I began to probe and play devil's advocate a little stronger than perhaps I should have -- I think it was a learning process that I needed to go through, but I know it ticked off a lot of people, and for at least some of that, I am sorry. (Then again, some people DO need ticking off from time to time, so I'm not sorry for ALL of it.)

Three, I began making gay friends. One of the first was a guy I worked with on my trip to England in the summer of '94, who had been born into a Pentecostal family but said he decided he was an atheist when he was five years old. He was a huge movie and musicals buff, and I went to his and his partner's place for the occasional Oscar party, things like that. After a year or so, I told him my Crying Game story, nervous to see what he would make of it, and he just laughed and said, "I love it when my straight friends think they might be gay." He'd evidently seen hets go through this before, and that was reassuring on a whole bunch of levels.

I saw The Crying Game a second time when I took a film history course at UBC, in late '94 or early '95 -- only two years or so after the first viewing. I was a bit anxious to see how it would feel this time 'round. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that I liked it as a film, just a film, and that -- as kenmorefield notes here -- the film works very well even if you already know the "surprise". Indeed, I was able to appreciate some of the foreshadowings more, things like that.

FWIW, kenmorefield, I haven't seen the film since, but it might be worth another look, especially if Neil Jordan's commentary is as good as you say.

My apologies if this has all been a bit too off-topic, or tangential, or not very specific to the film itself. But, see, I have to write a review of another film AND get some sleep in the next 12 hours, and I need to procrastinate SOMEhow...


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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One of the first thoughts I had during this film was "That's a man, baby!" (and that was pre-Powers).

I think part of the surprise was not so much the gender of the character but the way in which it was revealed.

And by the way, I always thought this was two films in one. The first one was worth watching.

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Yeah, I suspected when I saw the photo and knew the second I saw Dil onstage and thought 'Oh, great. THIS is what everyone's been so hush-hush about? If it is, I'm gonna be real disappointed.'

Of course, I'd been in the theatre for nearly 10 years at that point, and had worked with many homosexual men and women, including my surrogate-father-mentor in high school--and knew that hey, if you have an adam's apple, you're a dude. They can shave that now, of course--but Dil/Jaye wasn't a transsexual, so surgery wasn't really the point...

I can relate, Peter--except my mindcopulation occured about 7 years earlier--and mine was less of a specifically homosexual issue and more of a wider gender/sexual proclivity issue that needed some serious thought and research. I didn't grow up in the church environment--but I knew the Lord knew me, and that the choices were mine to make, but ultimately His design overruled the raging hormones and pressures of my teen years...but yeah, it took some real effort to dig into the roots of what the hell was happening to my psyche and sexual identity, like, years of battle for clarity.

Darn those role playing games. They're all of the devil! The DEVIL!

Well, no, but they sure lent a hand in my rumination over who the heck I was. biggrin.gif


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Jason Bortz wrote:

: Yeah, I suspected when I saw the photo and knew the second I saw Dil onstage

: and thought 'Oh, great. THIS is what everyone's been so hush-hush about? If it is,

: I'm gonna be real disappointed.'

I wonder if I would have clued in, if I had seen the film AFTER it got all that hush-hush buzz. I went into the film NOT expecting a "surprise", so I was genuinely SURPRISED. I do remember thinking that Dil's voice was kind of low for a woman, but then, that does happen sometimes, doesn't it? Like I say, I saw the film when it was pretty darn new, and all I knew about it was that it involved Irish terrorists and Madonna had said it was the most recent film she'd seen that she really liked. It wasn't until a week or two AFTER I saw the film that Entertainment Weekly had the cover story with the photo of Stephen Rea holding his finger to his lips and a headline that said, IIRC, "The movie everybody's (not) talking about." And then, a week or two later, Jaye Davidson was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor and suddenly there were all these hush-hush don't-read-if-you-don't-want-spoilers stories about how the Oscars had "spoiled" the film.

: Of course, I'd been in the theatre for nearly 10 years at that point, and had worked

: with many homosexual men and women, including my surrogate-father-mentor in

: high school--and knew that hey, if you have an adam's apple, you're a dude.

I didn't learn this rule until Stockard Channing brought it up in To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar. smile.gif

: Darn those role playing games. They're all of the devil! The DEVIL!

Heh. My wife still role-plays from time to time. And yes, she knows my story. smile.gif


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I wonder if I would have clued in, if I had seen the film AFTER it got all that hush-hush buzz.  I went into the film NOT expecting a "surprise", so I was genuinely SURPRISED.

You're on to something PTC. Pretty sure I wouldn't have been as perceptive if I wasn't looking for a surprise.

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Another implicaiton of this statement is the complicity of Jordan in the attitudes towards Dil.  That is to say, Dil, in this statement becomes a means to end--punishing Fergus--rather than a person in and of himself.  That Dil's own feelings at events take second stage to Fergus's does not bother me too much: a film needs a protagonist.  That Dil's presence becomes the most punitive thing that could happen to a straight person strikes me as hinting at deeper seeded fears than Jordan himself might be aware.

Ken:

I'm not sure what you mean by this. Could you expand?

And I'm not sure how "straight" Fergus is meant to be, really.

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Excellent thoughts, kenmorefield. Keep 'em coming!


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Link to our thread on "Romantic Pornography," which as of this post has taken a turn toward discussing androgyny.

I just caught this on NetFlix streaming the other day. This movie’s famous for one thing, lately—it’s a whopper of a thing, of course, but I'm glad I went in knowing the "twist," since the rest of the movie, while well-made in its way, isn't exactly world-changing stuff. The first third of the movie is a predictable, if unexpectedly funny, story of a captive bonding with his captor, and it's abruptly cut short by a frankly absurd stroke (I laughed out loud--and I was watching the movie alone!--when the soldier runs away and is hit and run over--repeatedly--by several trucks. Perhaps I'm heartless, but the whole sequence had an air of comedy that might have been deliberate, but which seemed almost too broad given what had come before).

Then the film shifts gears into a romantic comedy (!) leading up to that one reveal everyone talks about (it occurs to me that the reveal might actually be intended as a stroke of the absurd just as the sequence with the trucks was, but I'm not sure). I think this is the strongest section of the film--made stronger if you actually know what's coming, since it allows you (as stated above) to pick up on the hints as to Dil's nature--positioning the viewer at an ironic distance from Fergus. The movie's stronger with that distance in place; otherwise the "trick" would seem merely cheap.

When the thriller elements start up again they’re hardly gripping, and have the unfortunate effect of turning Dil into a whimpering, mentally incompetent thing where before she had been capable and intriguing. I mean, really: we're presented with this character who can hold her own (hir own)--emotionally if not physically--against alleyway bullies, but who is over the course of the last half hour progressively broken down to become "the chick" in order to serve the thriller-machinations of the plot. It's true that Dil gets the upper hand over Fergus, to the extent that in the end he is [literally!] a prisoner of Dil's affections, but given the way the character's been chickified up to that point I'm not sure the payoff is really that great.

EDIT:BTW, I'm very sorry kenmorefield's posts seem to have vanished; I feel like my understanding of the thread, and probably of the film, is poorer without them. :)

Edited by NBooth

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This was better than I remembered it, which is a strange comment to make for a film I've always been high on. I guess that I mean that I expected it to be more of a personal affinity and not something that fit for our list. But most of the first act plays out similar to a Dardenne/Levinas scenario (though not as tightly written) about the importance of face-to-face encounters. 

I was also struck by Jodie's line when Fergus is helping him urinate and reluctant to touch his penis: "It's just a piece of meat!" The film is, I guess, in some ways about what it means to be flesh as well as spirit.

Also worth contemplating is the the scene where Jody asks Fergus to tell him something before shooting him and Fergus recites the Bible, "When I was a child..."

When Jodie asks, "What does that mean?" Fergus answers, ambiguously, "Nothing." Later in the same exchange, Jodie challenges him with "Not a lot of use are you Fergus?" The first act can, in fact, be fairly easily rad as a shift from orthodoxy (Fergus "simply* believes that "you shouldn't be here" to a more complex and conflicted ideology where human connections transcend and trump (no pun intended) political considerations. 

I do remain concerned on some levels that Dil is a device -- that historically oppressed groups are the *other* or neighbor that only serve as the metric by which the ideology of conventional people can be measured. That said, I visited Northern Ireland last summer, and while I knew the facts of "the troubles" being there made me see how deeply embedded and conflicted identity politics is. Someone like Fergus does view himself as not just a solider but a member of an oppressed group, and his struggle to accept Jodie as a representative of the system he is fighting against rather than a victim of it like he is, gives the film more complexity than I remember. 

Still not sure if I am going to nominate it, but I was surprised how much it spoke to the present moment rather than just to the moment of its historical context. 

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