Looking for Langston

  • Looking for Langston
© Black Movie 2010, Genève/ Courtesy of Sunil Gupta and Isaac Julien
Genre : Historical
Type : Docu-drama
Original title :
Principal country concerned : Column : Cinema/tv
Year of production : 1989
Format : Mid-length
Running time : 45 (in minutes)

Langston Hughes was a militant black rights poet of the 20s. His homosexuality was notorious and caused him a lot of problems. In an impressionistic style, the film celebrates the gay black artistic period in New York known as the Harlem Renaissance.
The film opens with the original soundtrack of the tribute to Langston Hughes on his death in 1967. A composition put together from archives and scenes interpreted by actors follows. The funeral is re-staged as are the gay speakeasies, Robert Mapplethorpe's photos, and an extremely jazzy and estheticized pick-up scene. Poems and critiques from Langston Hughes' contemporaries make up the soundtrack.Of course it's about homophobia and racism. But it's also about the status of the artist and black intellectual in a world dominated by whites. A "queer" film classic.

A black and white, fantasy-like recreation of high-society gay men during the Harlem Renaissance, with archival footage and photographs intercut with a story. A wake is going on, with mourners gathered around a coffin. Downstairs is an elegant bar where tuxedoed men dance and talk. One of them has a dream in which he comes upon Beauty, who seems to reject him, although when he awakes, Beauty is sleeping beside him. His story and his visits to the jazz and dance club are framed by voices reading from the poetry and essays of Hughes and others. The text is rarely explicit, but the freedom of gay Black men in the 1920s in Harlem is suggested and celebrated visually.

Isaac Julien - Director
Wayson Jones - Composer
Peter Spencer - Composer
Nadine Marsh-Edwards - Producer (producer)
Trevor Mathison - Composer
Derek Brown - Production Designer

Ben Ellison as Alex
Akim Mogaji as James
Dencil Williams as Marcus
James Dublin as Carlos
Jimmy Somerville as Angel
Langston Hughes as Himself
Matthew Baidoo as Beauty
John Wilson as Karl
Guy Burgess as Dean
Harry Donaldson as Leatherboy
Stuart Hall as British voice

Dir: Isaac Julien
Impressionistic docu-fiction, UK
1989, 40', dvd, Fr. subtitles

Photo by Sunil Gupta, The Last Angel of History and After George Platt Lynes Nudes with a Twist 1952 (from Isaac Julien's Looking for Langston), 1989

BQHL / France / ange@bqhl.com

2010 | Black Movie, Geneva | 12>21 february 2010 | www.blackmovie.ch/archives/2010/en/film.php?id=639
* SECTION: Bad Sort ("queer" films) / Mauvais genre (films "queer")


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