LGBT Movies: Sunday Bloody Sunday (1971)

Peter Finch’s doctor and Glenda Jackson’s consultant are sharing Murray Head’s young lover. They’ve agreed not to speak with each other and he’s happy to hop between them whenever he gets bored. He hops a lot because they’re awfully boring. The cast is great but Sunday Bloody Sunday moves as slow as molasses. We’re never asked to root for either pairing but it’s nice to see two men show affection in a mainstream film from 1971.

My recap is short. Here is your spoiler warning.

Act One: Romance

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Glenda can date Murray openly. Peter has to keep things behind closed doors.

GLENDA JACKSON (A consultant): Why have you been avoiding this film? It’s historically important.
PETER FINCH (A doctor): Yes, but it’s also sad. And there isn’t much plot.
PHONE: I’m constantly ringing. I represent the irritations of modern life.
GLENDA: Whatever. I’m off to babysit some obnoxious kids with my boyfriend.
PETER: My boyfriend said he would see me today. When I’m not being interrupted by my patients.
MURRAY HEAD (An artist): Surprise! It’s me! I’m both of their boyfriends!
(We’re 20 minutes in.)

Act Two: Domesticity

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Peter Finch and Murray Head commit to their love scenes. British audiences were shocked.

GLENDA: We share him. He brightens up our dull bourgeois lives.
PETER: Let’s show the audience how boring we are for the next hour.
GLENDA: It’s a comment on British society.
PETER: You’d think we’d be having fun with our young lover, but we keep trying to domesticate him.
MURRAY: I’m dumping both of you losers.
GLENDA and PETER: You’re what!
MURRAY: I’m moving to America. You’ll have to get on without me.
(80 minutes in.)

Act Three: Reflection

PETER: I told you the movie was sad.
GLENDA: Why did we put up with him? Just because he was young and hot?
PETER: That and self-esteem issues. You just ended a bad marriage and I was having flings with hustlers before we met him.
GLENDA: He was kind of a jerk anyway. We’re better off.
PETER: I miss him.
(And after 106 minutes we reach:)

THE END

Bisexual Love Triangles

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M/M intimacy on film was rare in 1971.

I think Sunday Bloody Sunday is a masterpiece, but I don’t think it’s about what everybody else seems to think it’s about. This is not a movie about the loss of love, but about its absence. ~ Roger Ebert.

There is hope. Peter Finch has a successful career and a support system. He could meet someone new. Glenda Jackson has quit her job, and hasn’t many friends, but her wealthy family will support her till she finds her way. She has more options than she acknowledges. Murray Head’s artist can float by on his looks for another decade at least.

The sad bisexual love triangle is a thriving movie formula going back as far as 1924’s silent film Michael. Bisexual stereotypes abound, polyamory is rarely considered and the exclusively homosexual characters tend to end up alone or dead. For all its flaws Sunday Bloody Sunday treats its gay and bisexual characters with the same respect, and dignity, as its straight ones. Other examples of the formula include:

  • Angels of Sex (2012, Brazil). Llorenç González cheats on Astrid Bergès-Frisbey with Álvaro Cervantes.
  • Dare (2009, US). High school drama. Ashley Springer and Emmy Rossum both want Zach Gilford.
  • Entertaining Mr. Sloane (1970, UK). Feuding siblings Beryl Reid and Harry Andrews are seduced by Peter McEnery’s criminal.  
  • The Fox (1967, USA). Keir Dullea tries to seduce Anne Heywood away from Sandy Dennis.
  • Grande école (2004, France). Grégori Baquet cheats on Alice Taglioni with Salim Kechiouche.
  • Heartbeats (2010, Quebec). (aka Les amours imaginaires). Xavier Dolan and Monia Chokri both want the enigmatic Niels Schneider.
  • A Home at the End of the World (2004, US). Dallas Roberts and Robin Wright both want Colin Farrell.
  • I Love You Both (2016, US). Siblings Doug Archibald and Kristin Archibald fall for Lucas Neff’s suave hipster.
  • I Love You Renato (2012, Brazil). Ingrid Conte, Felippe Vaz, Vinícius Moulin Allemand form a complex triangle where each has mixed feelings for the other two.
  • Je t’aime moi non plus (1976, France). Jane Birkin tries to steal Joe Dallasandro from his boyfriend Hugues Quester.
  • The Things of Love (1989, Argentina). Manuel Bandera wants Angel De Andres Lopez who is dating Bandera’s stage partner Angela Molina.
  • Three Bewildered People in the Night (1987, US). Gregg Araki’s film debut sees John Lacques dating Darcy Marta but falling for her friend Mark Howell.
  • The Leather Boys (1964, UK). Early gay drama sees Dudley Sutton and Rita Tushingham fighting for the affections of Colin Campbell.
  • Threesome (1994, US). College Drama. Josh Charles wants Steve Baldwin wants Lara Flynn Boyle who wants Josh Charles. Irritated me because the gay man gets pressured into lots of sex with women. His sole moment of m/m contact is laughably disappointing.
  • The Trio (1998, Germany). Götz George and Jeanette Hain’s father/daughter con artist team fight over Felix Eitner.
  • The Velocity of Gary (1998, USA). Thomas Jane and Salma Hayek fight over Vincent D’onofrio.
  • We Think the World of You (1988, UK). When Gary Oldman goes to prison his lovers, Alan Bates and Frances Barber, fight over custody of Oldman’s dog.

Have you seen any of these films? Are there others in the genre you enjoy? For more reviews of LGBT Media click here.