‘Queens of Drama’ Director Alexis Langlois Brings New Pop to Queer Stories

Premiering out of Critics’ Week in Cannes, Alexis Langlois’ debut feature “Queens of Drama” is a musical blast of queer culture euphoria, telling a decades-spanning, impossible love story between a pair of pop idols who begin as fans and then become lovers, who climb the charts and permeate the culture as enemies, and who end up forgotten, as time moves forward and a new generation of teenage fans claim new idols for themselves.

The film’s familiar rise-and-fall rhythms struck a chord with filmmaker Alexis Langlois, who cites Vincente Minnelli and George Cukor as inspiration. “I wanted to offer a great, romantic story,” says Langlois. “Really, to give all these queer characters – and the queer actors who play them — a sense of grand romance by mixing the codes and memories of classic cinema with something much more modern.”

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“And I like idea of the wheel of fortune,” they continue. “As soon as one character reaches the top, you know they’ll be back at the bottom pretty quickly. There’s something so melancholy and romantic about has-beens, and in fact the film really shows how has-beens can be quite sublime.”

Few would mix up Langlois’ thoroughly modern evocation of stan-culture aesthetics with Cukor’s “A Star is Born,” and that was precisely the point. “I tried to build bridges between different forms of pop culture,” the filmmaker explains. “Not to reconcile them, because these forms aren’t at odds with one another, but at least to marry them, because these are the two aesthetic universes that built me.”

Like many, Langlois discovered cinema through the TV set, launching from series like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” towards older cinematic gems, and used pop music towards similarly enriching ends.

“For those who don’t necessarily come from a very literate background, pop culture can be a gateway, just as Beyoncé is today.  She’s really paved the way for a new generation to discover feminism, opening pathways and fueling interest to so many unlikely things. That’s certainly my story, and is the case for so many that worked on the film. We take equal pleasure in watching Cukor at the Cinematheque and Cardi B on YouTube.”

Of course, historically, queer audiences brought new meanings and new readings to the culture they consumed, and Langlois wanted to honor that as well.

“The film has political and activist dimension as well, because we were deprived of a certain history,” they say. “It’s bittersweet; sad because we didn’t always have out queer icons, and beautiful because we were obliged to fill in the gaps. And so, all of a sudden, we were dreaming up our own stories.”

That thread connects Langlois with contemporaries like “The People’s Joker” director Vera Drew and “I Saw The TV Glow” filmmaker Jane Schoenbrun, all them repurposing formative media towards more personal ends.

“It’s very important for modern queer filmmakers not to feel constrained by realism,” says Langlois. “We want to put queer people in contexts in which they don’t usually appear, because we’re entitled to great stories too. And that carries political and social dimension as well.”

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