Review #4: “Looking for Langston” (1988)

British filmmaker, artist and professor Isaac Julien’s short film Looking For Langston beautifully blends poetry, black pride and homosexuality into a tasteful and artistic medium. Released in 1988, the film places Langston Hughes as gay icon, weaving complex narratives, poetry and soft romances. It parallels 1920’s Harlem with a 1980’s gay London speakeasy.

Shot on warm monochrome film the film explores lyricism and gay desire. Using archival footage, photographic stills, stages and fantasy, the film is theatrical as it is charming. The score is vibrant and eclectic, using a mix of blues, jazz, and dance music. The linear transitions of poetry to shots creates a steamy and lovely film. The handsome men are too beautiful here. This is an avant-garde video art on homo eroticism. The heavenly bodies juxtaposed with prose is fluid and seamless at the same time. Before the ending party scene there is a coldness to the men’s seductive glances, but combined with poetry, scenes melt into each other in dream like escapades. There is an air of ethereal charm in the way these men move. Their bodies, standing firm with lyrical ballads creates a work of beauty and wonder.

“Romance is a fox hole/ this kind of war frightens me/ I don’t want to die with soldiers i don’t love”. Poetry from heaven. The poems and the cinematography dance together leaving a viewer with feelings of hotness and serendipity.

You can watch the film here:

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