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The 2000s continued the prominence of LGBT films in popular culture. From queer directors making a mark with indelible debuts (Tom Ford’s lauded A Single Man (above)) to gay auteurs returning to their older populist ways (Gus Van Sant’s award winning Milk), LGBT cinema was everywhere you looked. To straight directors trying their hand with high success (Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain, historical in its loss to Paul Haggis’ Crash that year for Best Picture) and non-US and independent filmmakers continuing their reign (Pedro Almodóvar’s Bad Education, Gregg Araki’s Mysterious Skin, Bruce LaBruce’s The Raspberry Reich, et al.), it was inescapable.

My interest in 2000s LGBT film falls squarely within world cinema. I discovered three directors around this time who were working, at their peak in my opinion, quite prolifically during this decade. Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s first feature, Mysterious Object at Noon, was released in 2000 and he would go on to direct three of my favorite films of that decade, gay or otherwise. Some of Tsai Ming-liang’s best output happened in the 90s, including his debut Rebels of the Neon God (1992), 1994’s Vive L’amour, The River (1997), and The Hole (1998), but he would also go on to direct five features in the ‘00s that are all distinctly different but all distinctly Tsai. After some small film and television productions in the 1990s, Israeli director Eytan Fox went on to direct a trio of positively received films in the 2000s.

The queer romantic energy that runs throughout Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Tropical Malady (2004) is unlike anything else committed to film – a journey split in two, one reflecting the other, with boundless poetic arousal for its characters that is reached by the metaphysics of the everyday and spirituality of nature. In the first half, a young Thai soldier (Weerasethakul regular Banlop Lomnoi) falls for a country boy, courting him. In the second half, the soldier is chased around the woods by a tiger shaman. Small moments are amplified, and beautifully so, like one scene in particular where our couple goes to the movies that is doubtlessly one of the most deeply felt, cosmic cinema scenes in history. Championed by Tilda Swinton as “one of the very few truly modern filmmakers working today,” no one engages the eroticism of humans and nature with cultural mythos quite like Joe.

I remember when I first discovered Tsai Ming-liang. I was recommended his films by a friend – and specifically instructed to watch them in chronological order. I complied, and saw his growth as a filmmaker as well the themes that consistently ran through his work: familial relations, alienation and the city, outsider sexuality, water, illness. It took me a while to catch up to his ‘00s output. I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone finds Tsai in his hometown of Malaysia for the first time, and reuniting once again with Lee Kang-sheng. Lee plays two parts here: both injured, both taken care of by another person. While Tsai’s queer sexuality has been prominent and explicit in past films, this one feels a little more gentle, but nevertheless honest and unwavering in its feelings.

Gay Israeli (NY-born) director Eytan Fox rose to prominence with his 2002 feature Yossi & Jagger (above), a romantic drama taking place at the Israeli-Lebanon border where two soldiers fall in love, but that ends fatally for one of them. I personally found the sequel, Yossi (2012), to be even more affecting. Featuring the Western pop music of Bright Eyes, Nada Surf, and Belle & Sebastian, Fox’s The Bubble arrived in 2006. Rarely has cinema offered such a genuine, but also witty and melodramatic take on young people navigating relationships while also trying to live by personal codes of ethics and engage in consciousness raising.

My blind spot of this decade when it comes to LGBT film is João Pedro Rodrigues. His trio of films O Fantasma (2000), Two Drifters (2005), and To Die Like a Man (2009) have been on my to-watch list for years. Some day. Some day soon.

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