Great films can entertain, engage and change your world view. A powerful story in the hands of a skilled director can display social issues that inform society and shape our lives. Today’s guest blogger, Simon Savory, is a filmmaker whose life was affected by watching The Crying Game when he was twelve years old. Simon talks to us about rediscovering this Oscar winning film and what it means to him and his work now.
Shortly before I made my first film someone asked me which was the first ‘queer’ movie I ever saw, and I answered with Neil Jordan’s The Crying Game. It could be argued that it is not a queer film, and I don’t think it is, yet it was my immediate response. Why? Remembering it in such a way impelled me to seek it out once more. After all, as a realized gay man twenty years later, there must have been a reason why I vividly recalled watching it as a twelve year old boy. And what a rediscovery it was.
A flop in its native UK arguably due to the tricky political content (the portrayal of a sympathetic IRA member) and a hit in the USA (sparked by a rather tasteless “don’t give away the secret” ad campaign), The Crying Game centres around the relationship between Dil (Jaye Davidson), a beautiful transwoman and Fergus (V For Vendetta‘s Stephen Rea), an IRA soldier who botches a scheduled murder that results in the death of a black British soldier who is Dil’s fiancé. To say any more about the plot would be an injustice to the thrilling narrative and emotional pay offs it delivers, suffice to say that the fact our leading lady is a transwoman is the only visual ’reveal’ given to us, and hence the most insignificant. It is the unseen layers of the characters and the unpeeling of their relationships that make The Crying Game a true classic and one that was years ahead of its time in mixing the intricacies of politics with those of gender and sexuality, only to focus more on the overarching power of human connection.
Also worth mention is that this was a British film with one black and one mixed race actor in its headlining trio. Yet the issue of race is refreshingly only touched upon once – by the oracular Jody, played by a scene-stealing Forest Whitaker. When Jody goes on to recount Aesop’s Scorpion and the Frog, The Crying Game’s engrossing chain of events are set into motion, and only at the film’s end do we realise that it is the complexities of the soul that sometimes allow us to deviate from what is supposedly in our nature.
The Crying Game had a troubled production. Besides the problematic casting of the role of Dil, financing had dried up on multiple occasions. Yet Neil Jordan persevered and created a fantastic film that challenged the norm and made audiences feel for characters who rarely have a presence in the mainstream. It is stories like these, not just the pioneering ones we see on the screen but the doggedly ambitious ones we hear of from behind the scenes, that inspire me to continue creating and telling my own.
I’ve only made one film, a micro budget road movie about a pregnant runaway and an intersex teenager called Bruno & Earlene Go To Vegas. It recently premiered at London‘s East End Film Festival and Outfest Los Angeles. Like The Crying Game, the production was challenging yet ultimately rewarding. Despite the odds I will doggedly persist to make more. Perhaps the twelve year old in me saw it coming…
Other Miramax experiences I remember fondly from my youth are crying uncontrollably to Fernanda Montenegro’s stellar performance in Central Station, applauding Beyond Silence (my parents are deaf), and relishing an empty 10am screening of SCREAM 2 at Disneyland, Paris.
SIMON SAVORY is a writer, director and producer, born and raised in London. After studying Film & European Arts at Kent University and the Sorbonne in Paris, he spent a year as a freelance writer, being published in Attitude, Dazed & Confused, Playgirl, Disorder, Phoenix and several other publications. After numerous stints working on films by Lloyd Kaufman, David Decoteau and Michael Urie and five years at independent film distributor Peccadillo Pictures (WEEKEND, TOMBOY, LIFE ABOVE ALL) he took the plunge and made his first film, BRUNO & EARLENE GO TO VEGAS. He recently shot music videos for MATT VAN SCHIE and DU TONC, and has plans to make more films that invert stereotypes and challenge the norm.