1992 Directed by Aerlyn Weissman, Lynne Fernie. Starring Stephanie Morgenstern, Lynne Adams.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., July 23, 1993
Forbidden Love... the movie's title echoes those found on the lurid covers of the lesbian pulp novels popular in the Fifties and SIxties. This Canadian film, through interviews and dramatic sequences, gives voice to the love that dared not speak its name -- to aspects of lesbian life and culture in Canada during those decades. Also using inserts of archival footage and still photography, Forbidden Love paints a vivid portrait of the clandestine lesbian culture in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal and New York during those years. With candor and humor, these interviewees tell of their experiences in the gay bar scene and their difficulties finding the gay bar scene. They speak of harassment and first loves and face-saving male escorts. Their testimonies point out many of the implicit differences due to class, age and familial background. Some critique the butch/femme role-playing of the period, some speak of the intolerance suffered, some tell of police raids, most recount their comings out. Interspersed throughout the movie are sequences of a fictional story of country girl Laura (Morgenstern) leaving her teary young lover Beth and heading for the big city in search of “forbidden love.” Her desires are answered when she goes home with Mitch (Adams), the lesbian who picks Laura up moments after she wanders into her first gay bar. Told with camp humor and compelling erotic desire, these fictional episodes mimic the lesbian pulp paperbacks that were read by so many of the interviewees and whose covers are presented on the screen. Each sequence, in fact, freeze-frames into a torrid book cover. Writer Ann Bannon, author of numerous lesbian dime-store novels, is also one of the speakers in Forbidden Love, making this a rich document for any student of pulp literature. Though at times the movie seems only as interesting as the stories its individual speakers are telling, for the most part that's not a problem. Their oral recollections are informative, absorbing, funny and insightful and open the curtain for a closer look at hidden aspects of lesbian cultural history.