In September 1989, Torch Song Trilogy had just ended its run at the Queen’s Film Theatre. It was well worth going to pains to see it. Indeed, if you haven’t seen it yet, then do make an effort either on DVD, one of the streaming media or if it ever returns to the cinema theatres. The lead, Harvey Fierstein, also wrote the original stage play and the screenplay. The theatrical origins of the piece are quite obvious but not intrusive – except at one point.
This is the section where the drag-queen Arnold Beckoff [Fierstein]’s Ma turns human, after having been presented as a monstrous harridan. It needed a much more subtle modulation. IN the theatre there was probably a scene change of some minutes duration at this point. Here the transformation takes seconds.
This film runs the gamut of Gay male life. We go from bars to backrooms to long-term relationships [semi-marriages], and brutal killing by queer-bashers. Despite this violence and a certain emotional aggro, this is a deeply optimistic and humane film. And it ends – praise be! – on a sentimental up-beat.
About the performance: Anne Bancroft [Ma] and Harvey Fierstein are as subtle as a hurley caman across the skull. Matthew Broderick turns in a quite subtle performance, which is impressive – he could have sailed through it on the strength of a pretty face [we don’t see much of the rest of him, more’s the pity]. the rest of the players performed so much like a repertory company that one wondered if they were some sort of repertory company?