Thursday, February 01, 2018

Good Morning, Priest

I wasn't raised Catholic - I was raised in the Pentecostal church, which is like, as far as such things go, way worse. Full on fire and brimstone, full on "the end times are literally tomorrow." I guess some people find comfort in that sensation? All I know is it left me hopeless in those most important formative years and I've been digging my way out ever since. Anyway 1994, when was 16 and fully aware that I was gay, that was the worst of it - I had one friend (literally one) and she was in love with me, and as far as I knew all the gay people were dying of AIDS in cities; I sure as hell didn't know any. I didn't have anyone to talk to - I didn't even know what to say. I didn't have the words.

But I did have movies. I worked at the video store at the local grocery store (Wegmans, holla) and we didn't have much in the way of Queer Cinema on our shelves - there certainly wasn't any Fassbinder or Jarman; we didn't even have Maurice, which at that point in time was still a specialty order and wouldn't have much place out in the sticks of upstate New York. 

I remember dragging my mother to the theater see Philadelphia in 1993 (I had seen it three times already), which I cringe now realizing was my way of desperately trying to bridge that conversation with her - as I said recently on Twitter with regards to the Call Me By Your Name sequel addressing AIDS the idea of "gay" in 1993 was inseparable from the idea of "AIDS." Perhaps that was different for an older gay person in actual human contact with other gay people but for an isolated teenaged gay in a small cow town that was my compass. (That and The Golden Girls, anyway.)

The next year Threesome played at our movie theater, and I got to see that sex - fun dumb sex without the Sword of Damocles hanging on the bedpost - might be a thing. We had a copy of Making Love at our video store but I was terrified of it - I remembered my father calling it "that faggot movie" when I was little. I had seen My Own Private Idaho but I didn't really understand it - with that film Van Sant's speaking to so much of previous queer cinema that I had no context for. I just knew that when Keanu and River were laying in bed together I felt dizzy.

Anyway long story short (I didn't intend for all of this to spill out this morning, my apologies) in my senior year of high school for some reason I will never comprehend we got a copy at my local video story of the Antonia Bird's movie Priest. And it hit me like a ton of bricks. No I wasn't Catholic but I understood the struggle that Linus Roache's character goes through in that film like nothing I had ever seen before. Here was a man who just wants to do good, be good, just trying to find a way to express his love in the world, being tormented for just that. For just love. 

I watched Priest about a million times that year - weirdly I haven't watched the film in two decades though? It doesn't get spoken of too often now, and I don't remember how it ends. But I know it gave me hope, or at least that is to say it gave me a way to understand, a language to begin sussing out myself through, when such a thing hadn't existed before that. It got the ball rolling with a big conversation I had to have with myself, one that I'm still having to this day if I'm being honest. 

Point being it's Linus Roache's birthday today and I'd 
like to wish him a happy one. Thanks, Linus.


Tom M said...

Beautifully said. You weren't alone. (And you still aren't.)

Simon said...

Great post. Thanks for sharing. 👍

Aquinas1220 said...

I saw "Priest" dozens of times too. Underrated movie. I even remember Roger Ebert giving it shit (I believe he spoke of his own upbringing in Catholic schools, which for me spoke of his own homophobia which was influencing his critique of the film).

Owen Walter said...

The ending of “Priest” melted me into a puddle of tears. It’s one of the two great tearjerking endings to a gay film, along with CMBYN.

Anonymous said...

Oh my God, yes, that ending! Couldn't stop sobbing the first time I saw it. I haven't seen it in more than 15 years either, I think it's time for a rewatch.

Anonymous said...

I love love love this movie! The ending made me numb for a couple of days after I watched it on LaserDisc (before DVDs came about).

Azhael said...

Loved this post, and although I never watched (or knew of) Priest, your other points about queer cinema and growing-up gay really mirror my own experience, although I could never have put it in so many words as you did. Thanks for this!

Gooser said...

I love this blog because of this type of entry, both substance and context. I only remember Priest vaguely, but I remember it's effect. Thank you!