Body language

A Screen Two film, The Lost

Language of Cranes deals frankly with the subject of homosexuality. Andrew Pulver heard the details from its star Brian Cox.

Coming out has become a hot issue suddenly what with the FROCS ‘outing’ hoax and McKellen and J arman’s public class over knighthoods and Clause 28. Sean Mathias’s version of The Lost Language of Cranes, adapted from David Leavitt’s acclaimed novel, puts the domestic tensions of coming out under the microscope, and its timeliness will no doubt result in the tabloids gunning for it.

Starring Brian Cox and Eileen Atkins, as well as former Edinburgh University thespian Angus McFadyen, Lost Language handles its potentially fraught subject in a downbeat, sensitive manner. Cox, first seen bungling a pick-up in a hardcore cinema, plays a middle-aged repressive, unable to acknowledge his gay identity— in considerable contrast to his sprightly son Philip (McFadyen) who, with the sunglassed Elliot (Corey thirysomething Parker) in tow, lives the life of Riley, with his parents kept in the dark.

The film’s drama turns on Philip’s decision to come out to his parents, and its revolutionary effect on father Owen. Producer Ruth Caleb explains: ‘What it’s about is living a lie - a man who has been living a lie for a number of years. Hopefully the subject will strike a chord with a number of viewers. As a producer, what I want to avoid is a “so what?” drama. Obviously it has to work first as a narrative, a story, but inevitably we are dealing with sexuality and there are always people who find that difficult to handle.’

Angus McFadyen and Corey Parker in Lost Language 0t Cranes

The strength ofthe acting (even under the pressure of having to shoot alternative “shorts-on” sequences for American audiences) sustains the drama through its more po-faced moments. Cox, particularly, is passionately concerned with the film’s themes: ‘That’s where this is honest it doesn’t avoid sexuality, it deals with it four-squarely. There are people who lead double lives, find it difficult to deal with certain situations. The film shows the loneliness of that world, and brings it into the public domain, so that it’s not just behind closed doors. That’s precisely the strength, the real beauty of the film too often these films are marginalised, in a kind of Channel 4 spot. It’s time for this to be seen in the mainstream.’

In focusing on a generation gap, Lost Language directs attention to the language of self-expression, a language denied to the father in his own adolescence. The cryptic central image an abandoned child developing a private, non-human language reinforces the point. Cox’s central performance is superb, a mixture of

middle-aged longing, stolidity and uncertainty. ‘1 had second thoughts,’ he comments, ‘you don’t know whether you’re up to it. The subject was so important. . . but I didn’t know if I could make people believe I was that man. I knew why I’d been asked though I’ve played gay roles before, and there was a quality of pain in the role I could touch on.’

The action is shifted from its original New York location to West London with considerable success. In what is, essentially, a film ofideas, each aspect of the claustrophobic triangle of relationships is thoroughly investigated; husband, wife and son. Cox adds: ‘It’s very internal what goes on here. You’re right here with this family, and you can’t show the joy, you’ve got to be serious, you can’t pretend. There’s a scene where I have to cry. It’s a bloody hard thing to do, going up to a flat in Hampstead and spending the day crying. It’s not a thing I enjoy. As you get older it get’s a bit more embarrassing.’

Screen Two: Lost Language Of Cranes is shown on BBC2 on Sunday 9 February.

Sky Bishop

‘Bouncer, are you tring to tell us something? You want us to iollow you?’ With such lines are we led on another recycled Neighbours piottwist, where Bouncer the hyper-Intelligent mutt leads gormless Joe Mangel to another disused quarry where the intent Sky {1'88 iound herseli tor the umpteenth me.

Sky (named thus by her hippy mother Kerry, mercllully shot by duck poachers

several months ago) is a strong contender tor the title oi Ugliest Baby Ever Seen On TV, resembling the otlspring oi Jim Bowen and an albino wallaby. For some unlmown reason, the normally decent bloke Joe Mangel taught a court case lor the custody ol this gargoyle. He lost, the judge preierring to believe real lather Eric’s story that Joe was in lact a cunning alias ol Nazi war criminal Joseph Mengele, and that he was perlorming hideous experiments on the child. That would at least explain Sky’s vacant expression and constant drooling.

Joe acted last, kidnapping the brat and heading lorthe bush. Badly-lnlormed sources tell us that in iuture episodes Sky disappears in mysterious circumstances, and Bouncer is brought to trial accused ol eating her. All looks bad for the gifted pooch, until the real culprit, a wandering Jehovah’s Witness (Meryl Streep) is brought to justice. Remember, these are the same people who gave Scott Robinson a complete body swap at puberty. They stop at nothing.


The List 31 January— 13 February 1992 57