For dykes' eyes only?

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Rose Troche's debut movie Go Fish, a romantic comedy detailing the lives and loves of five lesbians in Chicago, has been hailed as a breakthrough; a lighthearted lesbian film which might have hetero appeal. It tells the girl-meets-girl story of Max (Guinevere Turner) and Ely (V S Brodie) and their fledgling relationship, played out within the confines of a lesbian community doing all it can to get the pair together. Men, straight women and children have little more than walk-on roles. The film's candid sex scenes, art-house abstract moments and set pieces of dogma go some way to provide an insight into an urban, twentysomething lesbian lifestyle. But will it appeal to anyone other than an audience of dykes? Interviews by Rosie Millard

Michael Heath CARTOONIST

I liked the film very much indeed; it was very touching and moving. It reminded me of old Our Gang movies, black and white, with everyone wearing baseball hats put on backwards. Essentially, it worked as a non self-conscious introduction to the gay world of women. Formerly, our view of lesbians has been a sort of pre-war, Radclyffe Hall thing, all women walking around with monocles and cigars; but here they seemed relaxed and happy.

They did seem to go on about sex all the time; but I didn't get fed up with it. It seems to me their identity was all about being in pursuit of each other, and having affairs, and making love a lot of the time. Well, that's the way the gay scene is for men; and I guess it's the same with women. I thought it was cute. It could have become boring, but it didn't.

I think this constant thing about sex, how often you do it, and so on, frustrates straight people because we don't have that much sex, or we claim not to have that much sex. Gay people tend to have sex non-stop, all the time, don't they? 24 hours a day.

Did I find it titillating? No, no, I didn't. Well, perhaps a bit; vaguely, I suppose . . .no, I didn't really, in all honesty. I just liked to see them happy; funnily enough, it didn't really matter whether they were women or men. It was just all girls together, and fun. In fact, it's made me sort of want to be a lesbian now. It looks like they have more fun; and they treat each other very nicely. It made me feel good.

Sophia Chauchard-Stuart CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, PHASE MAGAZINE

It's the third time I've seen it; and I love it. It's just my existence; a twentysomething dyke in London. We all go to the same bars, we all hang around together, everyone sleeps with each other, and there's a huge amount of gossip. I only came out three or four years ago, and I was always a bit worried that I didn't look like one; everyone I knew who was lesbian wore tie-dye and ankle chains. It wasn't till I came to London and saw people with bobbed hair and pierced noses, that I realised it was OK. The film means a lot to me, in that way.

It's an art-house movie; and unless you've got a particularly prurient interest in seeing what lesbians get up to in bed, you won't get that many straight people going to see it. But the lesbian audience is very faithful; so it's possible it will do well, but it won't go mainstream.

It'll probably add another stereotype, but that's no bad thing. When I was growing up, there were no films like this; but now if you're 15 or 16, at least you won't think you're completely bizarre. You've got a film on all over London, you've got two dykes on EastEnders, two dykes on Brookside and I think this helps with teenagers who simply think they're weird and horrible. I took two straight men to see it and they came out saying, 'Oh my God, Sophia, they're all really normal; and they all talk like you'.

John Walsh EDITOR, INDEPENDENT MAGAZINE

Well, God] The boys' reaction to this is how come you get to see Ely's tits, which you really don't want to do; and yet you are tragically denied the sight of the strangely lovely Guinevere Turner's? That's the trouble. I spent half the movie dreading the moment Ely was going to take her clothes off. I thought she was stunningly awful to look at.

But as a film, it's got a lot of charm. What I really liked about it was its texture. All those loving close-ups of milk seething inside cups of coffee; shots of fingers, of people's eyes, and bodies. When the two girls first meet, I thought the camera work was terrifically sophisticated, the way it pulled around them, watching all that sort of social leakage going on.

The plot is nothing; what I was astonished by was the endless chat, and constant teenage ruminations about Doing It, or not Doing It. It was as if this is the only topic of conversation in the lesbian community, an endless process of definition and redefinition. It doesn't normalise lesbians, it actually keeps on saying 'Gaad] Aren't lesbians weirrrd?]' Lesbians are many things, but they're not weird. This lot sounded like little girls. I have friends who are lesbians, and they're not like this at all. If pressed on the subject, they simply say they're bored rigid by having sex with men, and that they have a far better time in the sack with women.

Was it a turn-on? Oh God, no] I hate to say it, but I kept longing for a man to turn up. As far as its potential to attract the mainstream goes, I'd say it's about as mainstream as the early movies of Andy Warhol. It's a lesbian film. You can't avoid the feeling that everyone in it is walking around with a placard on their neck.

Jackie Forster DIRECTOR OF THE LONDON WOMEN'S CENTRE

I found it convincing, and honest, but rather dull. I didn't get emotionally involved in it, which surprised me. I don't know if it was the banal dialogue, or the fact that they didn't change the tempo throughout. Some scenes should have gone much faster; every shot was rather tick-tock, and I think we expect more from the movies. I'm a little pissed off by these immense American lesbian outpourings, when Brit lesbians have a far longer history.

We were out way before they were, and we have our own identity, and advancement. But it was authentic, and very honest. If the actors weren't lesbians themselves, they certainly fooled me. All those really basic things, like doing the washing up, and going to coffee bars; I loved all that. Even the pierced nipples God] how could she] I'm not around to them yet, but there it was, it's the contemporary scene, and they brought it right forward.

I think the community in London will rush along to see it, because there's a desparate lack of lesbian movies. It might put straight women off, all those short hair cuts and so on. But it was very accurate about how relationships move on; I couldn't fault it. I thought, I haven't forgotten a lot] Indeed, I didn't sleep a wink last night, because the unexpected happened to me for just the same reason as in the film.

Was I aroused? Well, I think if I hadn't had sex last night, I'm sure I would have been.

Toby Young EDITOR, THE MODERN REVIEW

It's the first lesbian film which I've seen which hasn't starred Koo Stark. It was interesting because it was a genre picture; a conventional romantic comedy, a kind of When Harriet Met Sally. The problem for me was that it was about the wrong couple; Max and Ely were just so terribly boring, Ely in particular. Her sole purpose seemed simply to be ugly, in order to enable Max to overcome her preju-dices about superficial attractiveness.

So I found it an education, but not very entertaining. If I was a lesbian, I'd be overjoyed that a romantic comedy for lesbians had been made. It's a perfect date movie for a lesbian couple.

The makers may have had an agenda to make lesbians seem more like ordinary people; but I think they probably just wanted to make a light-hearted film. If we saddle them with a political intention, then we have to criticise them for doing it so badly; there won't be a homophobic white heterosexual male in the world who is going to be more sympathetic to lesbians as a consequence of seeing it. Hey, every single prejudice is confirmed] They don't shave under their armpits, they're ugly, the only reason they go to bed with each other is because they can't get men. Thank God it wasn't in Smellovision.

Was I turned on? Put it this way, I wouldn't have looked through a keyhole to see any of these couples making love. Call me crazy, but I don't find pierced nipples stimulating.

Rosie Millard REPORTER FOR INDEPENDENT LONDON,TWO MONTHS AWAY FROM HER WEDDING DAY

I think a lot of straight women have a sneaking regard for lesbians, and a curiosity to see how things are in their lives; so it was interesting to see how lesbian relationships work - the dinner party sequence, for instance. In the hetero world, dinner parties seem to be dominated by the necessity to invite a boringly equal number of men to women, and seating them all alternatively. Here, there was just a load of women together, and it wasn't a hen night. It looked like good fun, all drinking games and sneaked kisses and gossip.

I found the endless droning on about sex a bit wearying and somewhat insulting to the characters; it was as if lesbians have no other dimension than a sexual one.

I didn't really get any idea about what they did, or how they earned their money, apart from a tiny bit at the top. Also, I'm sure most twenty or thirtysomething lesbians don't ever spend their time indulging in games about what to call a vagina. Quibbling between love patch or honeypot? I don't think so.

The plot simply isn't gripping, or suspenseful, which is wrong for a truly successful romantic comedy. It worked more as a cultish didactic documentary about lesbian lives and moralities: this is perhaps why the director went for such a goldfish-bowl setting and shot it in black and white. I think straight women will go to see it out of curiosity, and they might find it quite arousing. Did it turn me on? In a way, yes. It was shot very sexily, and although some men might find that repellent I don't think women will. It was good to see women on top.

Go Fish: Central: Metro, North: Screen on Baker St, Screen on the Green, South: Clapham Picture House, Chelsea MGM.

See listings for details.

(Photographs omitted)

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