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UCL Mellon Programme: Interdisciplinary Seminar 2008-2009

Seminar: 31 October 2008 (Chair: Cüneyt Çakirlar, more ... )

A screening and discussion of Swoon (dir. Tom Kalin, 1992) 86 mins


Tom Kalin’s Swoon gives the truest account yet one of the 20 th century’s most notorious crimes: the 1924 thrill-kill murder of a 13-year-old boy in south-side Chicago by “genius” college students and lovers Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb. It’s the same story that inspired Hitchcock’s Rope and Meyer Levin’s novel, Compulsion, but Swoon forces its driving homoeroticism into the day light (not to mention the Jewishness of both killer and victim). Featuring the legendary Ron Vawter as the prosecuting attorney, Swoon flexes its brainy elegance to question the “queerness” of the case, and even extends the story to reveal how each of the imprisoned duo met his eventual death. A former member of New York’s ACT UP and the AIDS activist collective Gran Fury, Kalin is bracingly indifferent to the tyranny of “positive images” where same-sex desire is concerned, and Swoon, in its defiance and its lyrical intelligence, stands peerless within the last century’s queerly-inclined cinema. (Bill Horrigan)

Suggested reading

Aaron, Michele (ed.). New Queer Cinema: A Critical Reader ( Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2004).

Arroyo, José. ‘Death, Desire and Identity: The Political Unconscious of “New Queer Cinema”’, Activating Theory: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Politics, edited by Joséph Bristow and Angela Wilson (London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1993), pp. 70-96.

Viegener, Matias. ‘Men Who Kill Boys and the Boys Who Love Them’, Critical Quarterly 36:1, 1994, pp. 105-14.

This page last modified 26 September, 2012 by UCL Mellon Admin

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