Starring: Linda Griffiths, Jane Hallaren, Jon DeVries
Director: John Sayles
We’ve come a mighty long way since the mid ’80s, especially in terms of our attitude to same sex relationships. Back then, very few films would ever dare to broach the subject whereas today, there’s hardly a sitcom or a drama that doesn’t feature at least one gay couple. John Sayles was ahead of his time in this regard, choosing with his second film Lianna to tell the story of a 33-year old mother of two who, after witnessing her husband fornicating with one of his students in a sand pit at a faculty party, embarks on an affair with her child psychology teacher, Professor Ruth Brennan (Jane Hallaren).
After their first intimate coupling (underscored by a soundtrack of French whispers), Lianna comes out to her distant husband Dick (Jon DeVries) who doesn’t take too kindly to the concept. “I always thought there was something fishy about her” he says with contempt. But Lianna is undeterred and, accompanied by her new lover, hits the local lesbian bar for some seriously daggy dancing (meanwhile, on another screen entirely, Flashdance was showing audiences how to really move). More leg warmers can be seen on the dancers that Lianna is training a spotlight on for an experimental on-campus performance. As she watches from the wings, she makes an emotional connection with the piece that seems to mirror her own inner turmoil.
Sayles’ wrote the script based on the observation of his friends and acquaintances and created for himself the challenging part of Lianna’s pal Jerry who suddenly turns into a “divorce shark” and starts circling her with totally new intentions. Where Sayles perhaps fell down was as editor – the film is overly long and drawn out – but as a pioneering artefact (preserved by the Anarchists Convention no less!) it still holds much allure.