UK, 1996 (MIFF 1997, Documentaries)
Director: Andrea Weiss
A Bit of Scarlet is an imaginatively constructed, painstakingly assembled and highly amusing montage of gay-themed cliches and stereotypes from 60-odd years of British cinema. Director Andrea Weiss sets out to entertain first and enlighten second; individual scenes are not tied to historical context, but are instead juxtaposed to hilarious and ironic effect, and to illustrate various 'rules' about gay cinema. A Bit of Scarlet fairly bristles with Wildean one-liners as inter-titles: "Your purpose in life is to disrupt the heterosexual plot" or the racy "The buddy picture can get by with more than the usual male bonding."
Subversion of serious drama - or classic melodrama - is the name of Weiss' game. When Sherlock Holmes pretends to be on intimate terms with Dr. Watson, Weiss intercuts shots of actors Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce camping it up. She also has fun with a clip from This is the Army, when Irving Berlin appears singing a sweet tribute to My English Buddy. Behind him is a chorus of uniformed soldiers, many with their arms around each other.
A Bit of Scarlet could be considered a transatlantic companion piece to MIFF 1996 smash The Celluloid Closet, but is essential additional viewing to gauge the differing screen cultural attitudes of the UK Vs USA...and to enjoy a riotously funny and engaging documentary.