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Six years before Law Reform there was "Squeeze"

Sat 6 May 2006 In: Movies

SQUEEZE (NZ,1980) R18 Dir: Richard Turner Starring Robert Shannon, Paul Eady Made here in New Zealand before the homosexual law reform bill was passed, and on a budget of less than $100,000, Squeeze, the story of a bisexual man - straight by day and gay by night - caused a sensation when it was released in 1980. Initially called Night Moves, the film incensed Patricia Bartlett and the members of her rather prudish Society for the Promotion of Community Standards who campaigned vigorously against it - and much else to do with visible and even private homosexuality. Writing to MPs to express their concern over the subject matter and the possibility that our Government might finance such a film, the Society caused the film to be debated in Parliament. Some say this outcry and debate resulted in the addition of clause 18b in the Film Commission Act – which states that the Commission must have due regard to normal standards of general public morality. Ironically, the film wasn't even funded by the Film Commission. With the exception of a $2,000 script-writing grant from the QEII Arts Council, the entire budget came from private investment. It's plot is perhaps ironically best summed up in the words of two American and one Australian film writers: "He's straight by day, gay by night. Squeeze examines the cultural rules that have shaped Grant's decision to lead a double life. Inevitably his two worlds conflict, and he must choose between his fiancée and his after-dark lover, between a socially sanctioned life in the business world and unknown existence in the bar scene. Sometimes violent and often funny, Squeeze bravely confronts an often ignored segment of society, the gays who try to play it straight." — 6th Seattle Film Festival * "By now there have been a considerable number of films that have dealt with homosexuality seriously, but it's difficult to recall any that have focused on the bisexual's predicament. Therefore, Squeeze is a true rarity because its hero is a bisexual. That this film is from New Zealand, a country whose national cinema is still in its infancy, is all the more remarkable. What's more the conscientious New Zealand Film Commission, as a Government body in a very conservative nation, was not in a position to extend financial assistance to its talented writer-producer-director Richard Turner. However, with the backing of Auckland's gay community, Turner not only managed to make Squeeze but turned out a film that needs no apologies. Indeed, Squeeze is a film whose budget limitations actually work to advantage because they serve to underline the integrity and authenticity of the entire project... Squeeze keenly reveals the two very separate worlds in which Grant lives. The spontaneous, campy, though sometimes lonely and frustrating gay bar life contrasts strongly with the staidness of his very conventional straight existence. Squeeze has much of the gritty, dark naturalism of Night Hawks, the recent British film about a gay teacher's life in Britain. What is most important about Squeeze is the steadfast compassion with which it views its hero. Turner does not judge him for trying to accommodate himself to an oppressive society in which he's trying to get ahead by its rules nor does he forsake him when his life begins to unravel. Squeeze is a drama of most painful self-discovery, well-acted and heightened by an aptly moody, restless score." — Kevin Thomas, Los Angeles Times * "It seems that the Australian Film Commission has not been the only Government funding body in this part of the world to be criticized for a dinosaur mentality in choosing films for development. Richard Turner's Squeeze was made for a mere $100,000 after a great deal of trouble and no help at all from the New Zealand Film Commission. It's a sensitive and engaging story about life around the (predominantly male) gay bars and clubs of Auckland, using a television-drama format to bring out the social problems faced by various members of the urban gay community. Paul is at first a fairly timid young man making his first forays into gay life while living at home with suburban parents who are oblivious to their son's homosexuality. On his first night out at a bar, he meets Grant, a suave and smarmy young executive who pursues his secret affairs with boys under the illusion that when he marries Joy everything will change and he'll 'settle down.' The development of Grant's emotional and social dilemma is the strong part of the film and Robert Shannon does an excellent job portraying this … character with a great deal of persuasive realism. Paul Eady's nervous, shy and tightlipped young man is also quite convincing, although most of the scenes of queenly conversation and brittle bar chatter are too slow and forced to go beyond the standard screen stereotypes… Like most New Zealand films I've seen, Squeeze makes exciting and imaginative use of colour: and the film is worth seeing just for the evocation of the streetlife of Auckland. The photography is by Ian Paul; and there is an excellent score by Morton Wilson and Andy Hagan." — Meaghan Morris, Sydney Morning Herald Squeeze 6:30pm, Wednesday 17 May 2006 NZ Film Archive, 84 Taranaki Street, Wellington. Admission: $8, Concession $6, NZ Film Archive - 6th May 2006    

Credit:, NZ Film Archive

First published: Saturday, 6th May 2006 - 12:00pm

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