Behind the Candelabra, Steven Soderbergh’s backstage drama about Liberace, the fur-and-sequin-clad, ivory-tickling kitsch maestro of “wonderful” entertainment, and his relationship with Scott Thorson, the dewy hunk who became his romantic partner in the late 1970s, is a movie that I’ve been eager to see for many months. Nevertheless, when it was announced that the film wouldn’t just be playing at Cannes, but that it would be part of the hallowed roster of films shown in competition here, it raised my eyebrows.
Unless I’m mistaken, this is the first time that a movie set to premiere on American television — in this case, HBO — has been honored with a competition slot at Cannes. The festival, of course, has a long-term relationship with Soderbergh, going back to 1989, when sex, lies and videotape took the Palme d’Or. But it also struck me that the Cannes programmers were making a kind of cultural-political statement. Behind the Candelabra isn’t being released theatrically in the U.S. because, reportedly, no studio wanted a part of it — the word is that a number of executives thought it was “too gay” to be commercial. And let’s be clear: That’s insane. A movie about Liberace starring Michael Douglas and Matt Damon? It may not be Iron Man 3, but plenty of people, I’m convinced, would want to buy a ticket to see that. It’s hard to say what’s worse about the shunning of the movie by film studios: the implicit homophobia, or the insult to cinema. The Cannes programmers have obviously done their bit to right that wrong, and in doing so they have made a second statement as well. They have now acknowledged, from their perch of prestige, that “cinema” can thrive on TV. READ FULL STORY »