Great gay cinema

August 31, 1994

Great gay cinema

Leaving Lenin (Gadael Lenin)
Directed by Endaf Emlyn
Reviewed by John Frame

Shown as part of Brisbane's Third International Film Festival, Leaving Lenin was a welcome contrast to the only other gay-themed feature, Savage Nights, which was powerful but left you feeling emotionally exhausted.

Leaving Lenin gives you a chance to enjoy the sound of two beautiful languages, some glorious and stark Russian scenery and fine acting. It follows a group of seven students taken by their art teacher, Eileen, to Saint Petersburg for a few days. Eileen has sponsored her student, Spike, for the trip, in the hope that he will find the artist within himself. A struggling young Russian, Sasha wins Spike's heart with his determination to find artistic directions, in spite of the surrounding conditions.

Eileen has made this trip every year since she honeymooned in Leningrad 20 years earlier; she has seen things gradually deteriorate. This year hubby, Mostyn (a dedicated Marxist), accompanies her and is in for a few shocks. Has his marriage suffered the same fate as his ideal Russia?

Eileen points out to her students that Russian artists have traditionally made every picture tell a story and this film tells several without losing pace, wasting dialogue or moralising. There are many laughs throughout and a positive, emotional ending. I was impressed by the portrayal of a romantic encounter without exposed flesh. When it makes it to television, even the snootiest bigot will find it acceptable. This is great cinema, as opposed to special effects, and has my heart-felt recommendation.

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