Spoiler alert! (Though you’ll guess the ending in the first 10 minutes)
Directed by Nicole Conn.
OK I’ve decided to get this one out of the way. Claire of the Moon was one of the first mainstream lesbian films and, as such, deserves a place in lesbian herstory, but there’s really no point in prevaricating, this is one of the worst films (never mind lesbian films) that I’ve ever seen.
The plot: a group of profoundly unpleasant white women gather at a writing retreat which is being run by a lesbian-feminist called Maggie. The main characters are Dr Noel Benedict, a lesbian psychiatrist (and the least vile character in the film) and Claire Jabrowski, a tough, distant, ostensibly heterosexual, crime writer. Then there are a bunch of minor female characters who are all caricatures rather than people. They are obviously based on women the writer has met at these kinds of retreats, but the humour is not gentle, it’s vicious. The representation of the southern romance writer is particularly nasty and classist and I’d be interested to know what Dorothy Allison thought of it.
Maggie puts Claire and Noel in a cabin together and the first part of the film is basically Claire behaving like a spoiled brat and Noel putting up with it for some unfathomable reason. Of course, as time passes, they begin to fall in love, and after a lot angst on both sides, eventually get it together.
It’s easy to take pot shots at Claire of the Moon because it’s very low budget and the acting is terrible, but I don’t think these are the worst problems with the film. After all, a small budget is no excuse for bad storytelling and this is where the film really falls down in my opinion. There’s no cohesion (it’s like a series of vignettes), no tension and no pacing; and the result is a very long two hours to sit through for the reward of an average sex scene at the end.
But one of the worst things about the film is the horrible undertone of lesbian superiority. The heterosexual women are represented as stupid and Claire and Noel’s relationship is based on a really simplistic fantasy of turning the straight woman. I’ve mentioned this fantasy before in relation to When Night is Falling – basically straight women can be turned lesbian if they meet the RIGHT woman. But Claire of the Moon goes a bit further and starts to move into the political lesbian territory of suggesting that perhaps all women could/should be lesbians. If only straight women would realise how amazing lesbian sex is, they’d stop being slaves to men. The scene in which it is suggested that lesbians are better at hugging other women is quite something and the housewife is treated as if she’s just too stupid to realise that heterosexuality is a bad idea.
All I can say in this film’s favour is that it did open the way for other lesbian filmmakers.
I’ve just noticed that the DVD in the picture is a two disc collector’s edition! What the hell’s on the other disc!?