Review: Word Is Out

Word is Out film“Word Is Out: Stories Of Some Of Our Lives” made an unusual impact when it was first released in 1978. This documentary, helmed by six directors working as Mariposa Film Group, consisted of interviews with 26 gay men and women about their respective experiences in a less-than-tolerant American society. As a milestone in LGBT cinema, the film made a positive impression on wider audiences that only knew of gay life through sourish films like “Boys in the Band” or “The Killing of Sister George.”

In its time, “Word Is Out” was remarkable in presenting a variety of successful, well-adjusted adults who spoke cogently about their homosexuality – no mean feat in an era when being openly gay was none too common.

But as with many breakthrough achievements that shook up the status quo of their day, “Word Is Out” did not age well. Its theatrical re-release in a newly restored edition finds a stodgy and often stagnant film that is difficult to endure for all the wrong reasons.

Quite frankly, the film runs far too long (133 minutes) and represents something of a low in bad filmmaking – an endless skein of poorly framed close-ups of individuals who are almost never allowed to identify themselves properly. The interviews crisscross each other recklessly – there is no rhyme or reason regarding who is going to talk or why, and after a while it is easy to forget the back story connected to the person on screen.

But even if one were to excuse the film’s style problems, there is also the question of substance. The quantity of input weighs down the emotional impact – not everyone here is a gifted raconteur and many of the life stories are, quite frankly, too similar. The fact that almost everyone in the film is blasé about their sexuality only serves to enhance the basic monotony of the presentation.

Admittedly, this is a very important piece of film history. “Word Is Out” emerged at a pause in the nascent gay rights movement – one decade after Stonewall, a few years before the first wave of AIDS devastation and during a brief period when the biggest foe to equal rights was orange juice shill Anita Bryant. The fact that 26 adults were able to appear on camera and speak frankly about their sex lives was a remarkable feat for its time.

Thus, “Word Is Out” occupies a curious niche: a landmark, but not a classic.

“Word Is Out: Stories Of Some Of Our Lives”
1978 (re-released in 2010), Documentary, 133 minutes
Directed by the Mariposa Film Group
Distributed by Millarium Zero

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