So for my first review, I picked Henry & June – mostly because I hadn’t seen it before. I found it referenced on this list, and the IMDb description piqued my interest.
|Henry & June|
Director: Philip Kaufman
Stars: Fred Ward, Uma Thurman, Maria de Medeiros, Kevin Spacey, Richard E. Grant.
Ratings: UK 18, USA NC-17 for scenes of a sexual nature.
Bisexual Characters: Anaïs Nin, June Miller, Eduardo Sanchez.
Description: In bohemian 1930s Paris, writer Anaïs Nin (de Medeiros) is in a stable, but ultimately unfulfilling relationship with her husband Hugo Guiler (Richard E. Grant). When she meets struggling American writer Henry Miller (Fred ward), who is working on his infamous novel Tropic of Cancer, and his captivating wife June (Uma Thurman), she begins expanding her sexual horizons and creates a love triangle between the author and his wife.
I really enjoyed this movie. If you’re getting a little tired of the 1920s pastel shade obsession brought on by The Great Gatsby this summer, then rich, dark 1930s sleaze might be the perfect antidote. It actually reminded me in tone of another movie set in Europe during this period; and one of my favourite movies about bisexuality – Cabaret. Visually the movie is striking and beautiful, with references to Brassaï, Dalí and surrealist cinema (perfect for an arts and culture geek like me). It is also incredibly erotic, with numerous heterosexual and lesbian sex scenes.
While I thoroughly enjoyed the indulgence and the casting (Maria de Medeiros and Uma Thurman, later to work together again in Pulp Fiction are a stunning pair, with unusual faces enhanced by the gorgeous ‘30s makeup), at two and a half hours, this film is LONG, and some parts may be a little dull. I would recommend it if you were interested in either of the two writers (and really, if you aren’t, you ought to be!), or just interested in erotic cinema.
Presentation of Bisexuality (spoilers)
June Miller is perhaps the most prominent bisexual character in the movie. She is a figure of obsession for her husband, Henry, and later Anaïs. She demonstrates extreme passion and sexual attraction for Henry, and yet also moved her girlfriend, Jean, into their New York apartment, and flirts heavily with Anaïs. This is a stereotype that is all too familiar for many bisexual/pansexual people – the assumption that because of your sexuality you are unable to be monogamous, or remain faithful to your partner; that bisexuality is some kind of ‘hyper’ sexuality. June is also portrayed as manipulative (she often uses her sexuality to get money from people), a drug addict, an alcoholic and mentally unstable.
I’ve done the vilest things, the foulest things, but I’ve done them superbly
Anaïs Nin is here presented as bisexual, although in real life she claimed not to be. Her interest in women is generally limited to June, and her sexual awakening mostly involves men. This is another stereotype – I’m not sure how prevalent it is, but one I’ve been faced with. If you are in a same-sex relationship and bisexual (especially as a woman) it is often assumed that your main interest is the opposite sex, and you will ‘go back’ to men (for example). This is actually said out loud in the film at one point, when Anaïs confesses her love for June (though she has been sleeping with Henry), June responds:
You make love to whatever you need, you just want experience!
And for the most part, that seems true of Anaïs’ character.
I think this was a pretty good movie to kick off with. Bisexuality was definitely there, I didn’t have to search for it, and while it wasn’t the most positive portrayal (though to be fair, none of the characters are all that likeable) it was based on real characters (however loosely) with real flaws, so I could get on board with that.
Beware, Anaïs, these abnormal pleasures kill the taste of normal ones.
Amen to that!