Parting Glances (1986)

Thirty-six years ago today, the film Parting Glances premiered. With its realistic look at urban gay life in the Ronald Reagan era and at the height of the AIDS crisis, many film critics consider it an important film in the history of gay cinema. It was also one of the first American films to address the AIDS pandemic. First-time director Bill Sherwood died of complications due to AIDS in 1990 without ever completing another film.

Directed by: Bill Sherwood
Written by: Bill Sherwood
Produced by: Nancy Greenstein, Paul L. Kaplan, Yoram Mandel, and Arthur Silverman
Starring: Richard Ganoung, John Bolger, Steve Buscemi, Adam Nathan, Kathy Kinney, and Patrick Tull
Production Company: Rondo Productions
Distributed by: Cinecom Pictures
Release date: February 19, 1986
Running time: 90 minutes
Country: United States
Language: English

The story revolves around a gay male couple, Robert and Michael, in their late 20s, living in New York City. Robert (John Bolger) is leaving for two years on a work assignment in Africa while his partner, Michael (Richard Ganoung), stays behind. Michael’s ex-boyfriend, Nick (Steve Buscemi), for whom Michael cooks, looks after and still loves, has AIDS.

Parting Glances follows a 24-hour period with scenes taking place at a farewell party for Robert hosted by the couple’s friend, Joan (Kathy Kinney), and at a dinner party hosted by Robert’s employer, Cecil (Patrick Tull), and his wife, Betty (Yolande Bavan), who have an unconventional marriage.

While classified as a drama, the film also contains many comedic moments. Critics praised the movie’s witty, realistic dialogue and detailed evocation of gay and gay-friendly urbanites in 1980s Manhattan. Parting Glances was also one of the earlier motion pictures to deal frankly and realistically with the subject of AIDS and the impact of the relatively new disease on the gay community. In one scene, Nick talks fondly of the 1970s and early 1980s era of decadence to a younger, college-aged gay man.

The film’s soundtrack includes Bronski Beat songs “Love and Money,” “Smalltown Boy” and “Why.”

In 2006, Outfest and the UCLA Film and Television Archive announced that the film would be the first to be restored as a part of the Outfest Legacy Project.

On Monday, July 16, 2007 as a part of the Outfest Legacy Project, a restored print of Parting Glances received its world premiere at the Directors Guild of America in Los Angeles. The four major stars of the film, Richard Ganoung, John Bolger, Steve Buscemi and Kathy Kinney, were in attendance and participated in a panel discussion after the viewing.

The restoration print received its New York City premiere on October 29, 2007 at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.

Parting Glances gave Steve Buscemi his first major movie role. “It is to both his and the film’s credit,” wrote Janet Maslin in her New York Times review, “that the anguish of AIDS is presented as part of a larger social fabric, understood in context, and never in a maudlin light.” Time Out London wrote “Sherwood brings a notable grace and droll humour to his story of two male lovers parting against the backdrop of a friend dying of the Big A.”

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