Life and Lesbian Pulp in Postwar America

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I’LL NEVER forget the first time I saw Forbidden Love: The Unashamed Stories of Lesbian Lives. It was the fall of 1992, and the documentary was premiering at ForbiddenLove-smImage+Nation, Montreal’s queer film festival. Four years in the making, Forbidden Love featured interviews with a number of older lesbians from across Canada, each telling her own story about how she lived as a lesbian through a much more conservative era, roughly the 1940s through the ’70s.

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         Forbidden Love is not striking only for its content but also for its formal originality and ingenuity. Interwoven with the women’s testimonials are a series of fictional vignettes performed by two actresses, based on the pulp lesbian fiction of the day. At the end of each vignette the actresses look directly into the camera, creating what could be a pulp fiction novel cover. They also take some liberties with the pulp novels they enact, allowing their heroines a happy ending. How’s that for radical filmmaking?

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