Looking for Langston

FOR MONTHS BEFORE ITS OCTOBER screening at the New York Film Festival, the word going around about Isaac Julien’s Looking for Langston was that it was a hotbed of black homoerotica, the cinematic equivalent of a meat market well-hung with live and flopping dick, an Afrocentric phallus show set to outgawk-and-grope Robert Mapplethorpe. Never depend on scandalmongers when it comes to the naked truth. The film’s only frontal nudity is found in a silk-curtained gallery row of Mapplethorpe photographs, and no one except for those either easily titillated or turned off by the sight of two men kissing is going to get juiced by the footage here. What Julien has called a film meditation on the poet and writer Langston Hughes is really more a collage about the historical condition of being black, gay, silenced, and incomprehensible—both during the Harlem Renaissance of the ’20s and in the neojackbooted

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