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Lianna (1982, 110 minutes)

September 12, 2010

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Summary:

A college professor’s wife, Lianna, falls in love with a female professor, sparking a personal journey into identity.

The Review:

This may be the best lesbian movie very few people have seen. It is directed by one of America’s best directors, John Sayles. While many movies focus on a love story, this is one of the few that focuses on identity without being framed in romance. In movies, fighting for your rights or finding the courage to come out is often fueled by the passion of your one true love. When Lianna falls in love with a woman for the first time, it marks the beginning of a complicated journey into self discovery;

culminating in what one the best lines delivered in a lesbian movie, Lianna Massey eats pussy.  The issue of identity in this movie is dealt in a personal way, not in rhetorical monologues (i.e. Claire of the Moon). Lianna is left alone to deal with her children, her husband and society. There’s even an interesting change in the male gaze through a character that is played by John Sayles himself. Becoming a lesbian wasn’t a fairy tale for Lianna. There is no happy ending, but it isn’t hopeless either. This movie isn’t a love story and hence the low lip rating. However, it isn’t shy about kisses or love scenes.

Lianna doesn’t just discover her sexuality, her coming out process leads her to find herself as a woman as well. One of the fascinating things in this movie is how Lianna repeats the power dynamics of her heterosexual marriage in her lesbian relationship. She married a professor, whose class she had attended. Years later she falls for the woman teaching another class she’s attending. Both relationships leave her in a position that leaves her vulnerable. Lianna has many obstacles to overcome in her life and her lesbianism is just part of a multitude of issues that do not suddenly go away because she suddenly discovers her sexuality.

How could a man shoot such a good lesbian movie? Perhaps it is Sayles’ ability to see other’s people’s perspective (Lone Star)? Perhaps it is the fact that he has always worked outside the Hollywood system? Sayles fund raised in rich lesbian circles in order to finish the movie because at the time anyone interested in these topics had to fight to get such a movie made. <i>Lianna</i> certainly is sincere has integrity and that is more than we can say of some of our lesbian filmmaker’s movies. It’s not the first time men have made decent lesbian movies.

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