The Queer Biopic in the AIDS Era

This week's review explores the impact of the AIDS crisis on the queer biopic, tracing the emergence of New Queer Cinema

The Queer Biopic in the AIDS Era

Stamm, Laura. Oxford, 2021
218p bibl index, 9780197604038 $125.00, 9780197604045 $39.95, 9780197604069

The Queer Biopic in the AIDS Era book cover. Black and white background of a group of men in checkered jackets. In the middle of the cover is a coral rectangle with the book title and author, Laura Stamm, written in all caps in white text.

Stamm is director of diversity, equity, and inclusion at the Univ. of Rochester Medical Center. In this volume, she examines the queer biopic through the lens of the AIDS crisis. Based on conference papers the author delivered over the years, this brief study asks “why … queer filmmakers such as Todd Haynes, Barbara Hammer, and Tom Kalin [were] compelled by the biopic genre during the AIDS crisis?” For Stamm, the new queer cinema diverges from the more conservative biopic, such as Milk (2008), because of a greater emphasis on the subject’s sexuality. The five chapters, “case studies” as Stamm calls them, review how the AIDS crisis changed the queer biopic and how such films inform the queer audience of connections to the past and community. Stamm samples a variety of films throughout, including Jarman’s Caravaggio (1986) and Kalin’s Swoon (1992). One chapter is devoted to the films of Barbara Hammer and studies of less-known filmmakers, such as transgender activist Tourmaline. This volume belongs in comprehensive queer cinema collections along with B. Ruby Rich’s seminal New Queer Cinema: The Director’s Cut (CH, Sep’13, 51-0181), which briefly covers biopics.

Summing Up: Highly recommended. Graduate students, researchers, faculty.
Reviewer: A. J. Adam, Strategic Planning Online
Interdisciplinary Subject: Women’s & Gender Studies, Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Studies
Subject: Humanities – Performing Arts – Film
Choice Issue: Dec 2022

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