A Very Natural Thing (1974)
To my eyes it seems that there are two ways when confronting non-normative behavior in the mainstream. The first way is to present that who do not cater to the hegemony's expectations of sexuality (read: non-heterosexual) or, the more queer approach, is to thrive in the marginalized space assigned to them and to proclaim that they do not want to be part of the majority. One assumes that underneath it all, we're all the same and the other does just the opposite.
Based off its title, I'm guessing you know which approach "A Very Natural Thing" takes. Late in the movie one character justifies infidelity in general by saying "we all have urges" or something to that extent. Though it may not feel that political by today's more extremist climate, make no mistake that this is a film that is political...but not terribly so. It's making its point, but making it to a very small audience who probably already agree with the sentiments that it sets forth.
David (Robert Joel) is recently out of the Catholic church where he was spending time as a monk. After he came out of the closet, at least to himself, the religion collapsed and he found himself not believing in a god of any kind. He goes out to a night club and runs into Mark (Curt Gareth) who is three years younger and has a much less romantic approach to sex.
David is the romantic, the one that we are supposed to identify with, which was not a problem for me. Mark is the less certain, more masculine one who has hang ups on committing himself to one man for the rest of his life because that would be...*gasp* romance.
In terms of representation, this is considering to be one of the first gay dramas made in America. Whether it's the very first or not is not really important because the nuance that we are given to these characters is surprising considering the time period it was made in.
As the movie's very slight plot continues, we are reminded of possible budget issues, studio drama, and actors risking the rest of their careers on this film. It's not surprise that you haven't heard of any of the stars of the, let alone the film itself.
Half of me wants to respect the film as a pioneer for its time, and the other half isn't compelled by the drama present. It feels forced and cliche, though at the time it was breaking new ground and maybe this is an issue of being a 21st century viewer. You cannot understand the time unless you lived through it. This is why so many films age horribly...but that's another topic.
"A Very Natural Thing", to increase it's running time, includes a mini-documentary in the middle where the filmmakers appear to have interviewed LGBTQ people during a pride parade on what it meant for them to be out of the closet. The answers vary from inspiring to simple but it's a little more interesting than David and Mark's drama central to most of the movie's plot.
The writing is sharp and not too self-indulgent like "Boys in the Band" was. It's a movie that knows it won't receive mass consumption so it plays its hand cleverly. It can be a little more forward and some of the things present are surprising.
But at the end of it all, just considering the way it wants to be viewed: just as a drama and not a "gay movie", it doesn't hold up in comparison but I'm not sure anyone is at fault for that.
Posted by Micah Jones