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Word is Out – 30th Anniversary Edition – DVD Review

 

REVISITING THE CRACKED-OPEN CLOSET DOOR

 

picture - Word Is Out - 30th AnniversaryDVD Review

by Harvey Perr 

published July 27, 2010 

 

Word Is Out

now available on DVD

from Milestone Films

 

When Word Is Out: Stories Of Some Our Lives was released in 1977, gay men and lesbians were talking not about same-sex marriage but about coming out of the closet, and AIDS, which, less than a decade later, would devastate the fabric of the gay community, was not on anybody’s mind. So is the film dated? Blessedly, very much so. But, as a reminder that a mere thirty years ago people could be struggling to find their identities with a bravery that was intermingled with trepidation while in a state of blissful innocence, Word Is Out remains the single great documentary of its time on the subject. And Milestone Films, our favorite distributor, along with Kino and Criterion, of rare and neglected and archivally restored film masterpieces, once again deserves credit for bringing the film, newly restored on the occasion of its thirtieth anniversary,* back to us. For a new generation, the film could serve as a revelation. For the generation that lived through it, tears of nostalgia will certainly be shed and personal memories will be stirred. And, given the amount of frustration that so many gays feel about how slowly progress is made, the film is an affirmative demonstration that gays have indeed come a long way since 1977. But, frankly, the significance of its re-release is based largely, and simply, on the fact that the film is as good as it is.

 

The newly-packaged release contains not only the film but a recently-made set of interviews with the original subjects that is just wonderful; it is like visiting friends we haven’t seen in a long time, and, though it’s sad to discover how many have died since the film was initially made (some, of course, from the disease that hadn’t yet reared its ugly head) and interesting to ponder on why some refused to be re-interviewed, it is primarily a pleasure to be in their company again. And the documentary, Remembering Peter Adair, about the Mariposa Film Group and the man who, at its helm, produced and spurred it on to fruition, is, like the film itself, meticulously put together and not a mere sentimental tribute.

 

And, as a side punch, the story of Tom, the fearlessly brash young actor who seems to be sabotaging his own career by the aggressive stances he takes, has a splendidly happy ending: Tom Fitzpatrick is now one of the best and hardest-working actors in Los Angeles.

 

This is a film that should be in the library of every gay man and lesbian in the world. But it should also be seen by every American who can never be told enough or too often that the people who want equal rights are their friends and their family members and are very much like themselves. Word Is Out is essential, even – and perhaps especially – after thirty years.

 

harveyperr @ stageandcinema.com

 

* [editor's note: The 30th anniversary is calculated, apparently, from the year it was released in New York in 1978 to the completed restoration in 2008.  It premiered, however, in San Francisco is 1977.]

 

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