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New queer video on the shelves

Review by Jenni Olson, Producer, PopcornQ

Seasons change, cars pass by, the wind blows, cows stand in a field -- you are there.

MASSILLON, William E. Jones' 1991 debut film was one of the treasures of the '91 gay film festival circuit -- it is finally being released on video in November by LA's Video Active.

A remarkably sensual film, MASSILLON evokes the essence of the Midwest in its wonderfully simple composition. The film's gentle editing is complemented by the reassuring intonation of Jones' voice-over as he describes his childhood, his researching of state sodomy laws, and the etymology of the language of sexuality. Divided into three parts (Ohio, The Law, and California), MASSILLON ranges through the personal to the political and back again.

In the first part of the film, road signs, construction sites, churches, fields, and highway overpasses fill the screen as Jones relates his melancholy and evocative anecdotes of growing up gay in Massillon, a small town in Ohio. Part Two consists of a lovely, lengthy cross-country highway trek complemented by the 1986 tirade of a fundamentalist radio preacher as he spouts off about the Supreme Court's upholding of the Georgia state sodomy law in the Hardwick decision. The arid landscapes of the filmmaker's new home in Santa Clarita, California, are the back drop for Part Three, accompanied by Jones' voice-over analysis of theories of homosexuality. Jones accomplishes a remarkable feat in the final moments of MASSILLON -- with a single quotation from Diderot he ties the film's strands of personal sexual politics into a brilliant knot of childhood memories, etymological meanings and historical analysis.

Challenging some of the most firmly entrenched conventions of filmmaking, MASSILLON has no human actors and consists almost entirely of long, static, landscape shots. The film's challenging style, methodical pace, and gorgeous cinematography make it one of the most intelligent and rewarding gay films of the past decade.

If you can't find MASSILLON at your local videostore, bring them a copy of this review and tell them to get it in stock today!

(William E. Jones's most recent film, FINISHED -- an experimental documentary about the suicide of gay porn star Alan Lambert -- debuted at the 1997 Sundance Film Festival and continues to circulate on the festival circuit.)


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