Wednesday, September 05, 2012

'Parting Glances' vs. 'Longtime Companion'

As regular readers know, I'm a huge fan of "Parting Glances." It was one of the first gay films I ever saw, and even though it dealt with the topic of AIDS, it was the principal characters' life as a couple in Manhattan that really made an impression on me. This wasn't about coming out, or being ashamed of being gay, or being married but sleeping with men behind your wife's back. And it wasn't really even about AIDS, even though the disease was addressed head-on. It was about a couple ... who happened to be gay ... living their lives. It was the first time I ever saw -- in real life or in art -- that it was possible to be both gay and "normal," whatever that meant. From there I learned that gay couples had the same kind of lives as every other couple -- friends you love, friends who get on your nerves, work obligations, complications in your relationship. Michael and Robert, of course, were gay men in New York City in the late '80s, so their lives included knowing people with AIDS. But they had other concerns as well.

When "Longtime Companion" came out a few years later, I was immediately skeptical, looking at it as a bigger-budget, big-studio knockoff. It was a ridiculous reaction, but I was defensive of my "first love," a film I had felt was sorely neglected. A friend who had never seen either (Ken) watched them both recently -- without knowing the pedigree of either -- and casually mentioned that he thought "Longtime Companion" was the superior of the two, a statement that brought an audible gasp from me.

I only saw it once -- at the Beverly Center in 1990 with my friend Greg who was visiting from Phoenix -- and while I remember thinking it wasn't bad, I certainly thought it paled in comparison to Bill Sherwood's 1986 classic. Intrigued by what my friend Ken had said, I watched "Longtime Companion" again last night and had a few new revelations. First off, was this really from 1989? I know films play in theaters longer than they do now, but I could have sworn Greg and I saw it in L.A. when it had just come out. But my research shows it was released on Oct. 11, 1989. Anyone remember anything about its release/distribution? Perhaps it showed exclusively in New York at first -- but I always thought these things tended to be New York and L.A. when first released. This film has always been a 1990 film to me, so while a year might not seem like that big of a difference, it is in my highly chronological mind. 

 I didn't realize the guy who played the soap star was a Cassidy, as in Jack Cassidy and Shirley Jones' son, brother of Shaun and half brother of David. What a hunk! I remember Campbell Scott being in it -- I knew he was George C. Scott and Colleen Dewhurst's son -- but I had forgotten his character grows a mustache late in the '80s. (I'm assuming his hunky lover, Fuzzy, didn't mind, even though he had shaved his beard by the time the 'stache sprouted!) I'd forgotten how fabulously femme Dermot Mulroney was -- and how great it was to see Michael "Jake Ryan" Schoeffling again. 

 The dialogue on the beach at the end (not the reunion, but the dialogue) was still as cringe-inducing today as it was 20-some years ago -- I think the idea was right, but the execution faltered -- but overall I thought the film held up rather nicely, even better than I had remembered. I think it captured what so many people were going through at the time -- with everyone they know dying one after the other. Still, even opening with Blondie's "The Tide Is High" and everyone reading an article in the New York Times, it's still no "Parting Glances." Thoughts?

UPDATE: Got some clarity on the film's release date today in an email:
Mr. Walsh, My friend, Norman Rene, directed Longtime. The premiere was May 3,1990 and it opened publically the next day. I very much enjoy your blog. Best, George 


Mike in Asheville said...

First off, I don't see the relevance of comparing the movies -- each stands on its own, each was beautifully and brilliantly produced and acted. Loved them when they were released and still love them today.

Also released in the same time frame, My Beautiful Laundrette -- oh how yummy Daniel Day Lewis was, and still is!

And, a bit later, 1992/3? the movie version of And the Band Played On -- for me the real tear jerker as I knew (and know some of my still-alive fellow survivors) a few of the characters in real life. (Had such a crush on Kico Govantes, what a babe!)

Tommy MD said...

They are both exceptional films, and while I LOVE fave lists as much as the next guy/girl, I feel NO NEED to put one above the other. Each film changed my perception of my life in crucial and undeniable ways - and I will be thankful to the filmmakers (and actors involved) for helping me make sense of, what was then, a scary and senseless era. In some ways, I may still be alive today because of the effect these films had on me! AND - I think they both hold up VERY WELL, even as period pieces. My love and gratitude to all involved with them.

Larry said...

"Longtime Companion" was considered a 1990 film, because Bruce Davison (who was absolutely phenomenal, I thought) was nominated for an Oscar with other 1990 releases. So perhaps the 1989 release was some sort of special pre-release release?

I saw "Longtime Companion" long before "Parting Glances," and I was so blown away by the former film that it was difficult to compare them until much later. I think both are strong in their own ways. The beach scene still tears me apart.

I was just coming to terms with being gay around the time "Longtime Companion" came out, so the movie really resonated with me, and I remember thinking a lot of the actors were really hot. I still can't see Dermot Mulroney in a movie and not think of his performance in this.

I'll have to give "Parting Glances" another viewing and see if it has held up for me as much as I believe "Longtime Companion" has.

Chicagio Charles said...

You can review the release dates for Longtime Companion at IMDb: It looks like it played film festivals in late 1989 and early 1990, then got a wide theatrical release in 1990 - so your dating probably isn't wrong.

I was amazed at the level of professionalism of the cast of LC as opposed to Parting Glances - I just felt the acting was better. I like both films, though.

Hank Plante said...

Bruce Davison, the star of Longtime Companion, was the single worst interview subject I've ever had. I interviewed him live on the noon news on CBS-5 in S.F. when the film came out. He was so uptight and shut-down that he barely answered any questions at all. I felt he was ashamed and embarrassed about being in the movie. I've never forgotten that horrible experience. -- Hank Plante

mike said...

I think you've parsed the difference well.

Parting Glances is a unique, even now, in that it was not a gay film at all, except that the key roles were gay. It was a perfect snapshot of a certain NYC in the 80's. PG was a movie about a hilarious and poignant love triangle, not a gay movie.

Longtime Companion was a gay movie about AIDS' intrusion into the lives of gay men. It showed that AIDS cut across socio-economic lines and across behavioral lines ... at an important moment, it reminded us that we were all exposed to the virus, in one way or another. (and Fuzzy, grrrr.)

Don said...

If I have any gripe about Longtime Companion it's just that it covers too many people and too many years so the whole thing feels a bit crowded and rushed. Still, I'm glad it was made, and it's an important film.

Christopher Mason said...

I was 16 and just coming out when LC was released. It blew me away about the "world" I was entering to. I was excited and terrified to see images of "normal" lives but how sex could kill.

I love your blog, Ken, and adore how smug you are about senitmental things, but the beach scene was what we all we hoped for in 1990. And still do.

martymartymarty said...

I disliked "Longtime Companion" immensely when I saw it in the theater back when it came out, I don't remember exactly why except it felt very 'Hollywood' to me, like it was written by marketers instead of autobiographers, so to speak. I am yet to pursue seeing it a 2nd time.

I adored "Parting Glances" from my first viewing and hold it as one of my very favorite films of all time. It has an amateurishness to it that gives it a timeless charm, a classic feel for the community it was representing at the time. It just seems a lot more human to me.

Jim said...

One of my most favorite films, it still always makes me cry. I lived in New York then and all the time leading up to it so it’s a sad reminder of the times and that St. Vincent’s was a morgue for the West Village. AND how I loved the city.

You’re exactly right about Michael Schoeffling, the amazing stud from another very fav film, Pretty in Pink. I think those were the ONLY two roles he acted in, and that he’s now a carpenter somewhere back East.

The cast of LC was amazing: Mary-Louise Parker was so young then, I think of her now as the mom in Weeds. Campbell Scott, Dermot Mulroney and Patrick Cassidy were all so handsome and Bruce Davison was an amazing gay man even though he’s straight! Just damn good acting.

Thanks for featuring it, Kenneth. I always liked it waaaay better than Parting Glances.

john said...

I can only think of 3 movies I've gone back and paid to see more than once in a theater: "A Room with a View", "Ordinary People" and "Parting Glances". So you know which gets my vote.

Tom Chicago62 said...

Parting Glances also one of my first gay movies and my favorite. It also captured a time, when New York was into the hedonistic 80's, but lamenting the creativity that came out of the gritty 70's.

Anonymous said...

First of all - congrats to you Kenneth for a constantly evolving and very funny to read blog

As to your film oberservations, I relate to most of them, however, I find it difficult to compare these two films with each other:
LC is on crystal clear celluliod whereas PG is dark and grainy, LC is political in its single issue, the lamentation of the loss caused by HIV/AIDS and the wilful ignorance of the Reagan adminstration; PG's single issue on the other hand is the analysis of a gay couple's marital problems one of which is them being at odds about HIV/AIDS where for Robert this topic is almost taboo but where for Michael it is an obsession because his "true love" is positiv.

It's probabely not surprising that as a European LC is "too much" for me and I find PG therefore much more appealing as film. Nevertheless chapeau to LC's acting; I dare say that even Hitler would have been moved by the harrowing and gut-wrenching display of a man dying from AIDS.

A more contemporary portray of the HIV/AIDS is certainly Drôle de Félix (English titel: The Adventures of Felix) although my favourite gay film would be - and I know that I'm a freak for this - Kira Kira Hikaru (English titel: Shining Brightly

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