Inspired by the writings of Jean Genet, Poison explores sexuality by deftly interweaving a trio of provocative tales—"Hero," “Horror,” and "Homo"—with different cinematic styles in color and black and white.
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A triptych of abstract queer cinema with narratives connected through themes of alienation, disgrace, and shame. Each allegory calls towards the experience of being queer; Haynes likens the alienation of a young boy, the restraint of a victimized male, and the monstrosity of a self-denying doctor to comment on the general malaise of societal judgment and abuse of those deemed 'different'.
84/100 - Great
A true masterpiece of progressive queer cinema. This bold debut blends cinematic formalism and a fearless sense of identity. Beyond the sexual overtones, Todd Haynes divides the harsh realities of living in a homophobic society into three separate, but equally powerful episodes. I was especially transfixed by the "mockumentary" portion.
Haynes' feature debut was considered audacious and controversial in '91 but now stands as a testament to his abilities in challenging his audiences with narrative and visual style. Based on the writings of Jean Genet, Haynes tells three stories concurrently namely 'Hero', 'Horror' and 'Homo' each with their own visual pastiche but with a shared theme underneath it all, Daring, cinematic and brilliant.
Not a pleasant film to watch—but then, neither are Eraserhead and Un Chien Andalou. From 2014, when Sundance has come to mean quasi-hipster pleasantries like Safety Not Guaranteed, the sheer transgressiveness of Haynes' debut is still astounding, telling its stories about the guilt/innocence of primal urges with a truly beautiful eye for ugliness.
The style of the Homo vignette recalls so vividly the films of Jarman and Pasolini in their gritty naturalism. The Horror vignette could easily be mistaken by the average viewer flipping through channels as actual 1950s sci-fi (the cinematography and tone of the black and white is that good). Haynes, in my mind, maintains himself foremost as a stylist upon his tellings through film.
The context of the film is a bit unknown to me; but on its own, the film stands rather well. The bog question, of course, is how the films are connected or how they influence each other. The distinct genres create a great juxtaposition, but I still want to figure out what it all means.
it's so frustrating that this movie is not widely available currently. it is one of the most important pieces of queer cinema ever made. it definitely is raw around the edges and highly flawed in a lot of ways, but overall what this film is doing is so amazing that it doesn't really matter. if you can, find this and SEE IT.