“For a homosexual, the best moment of love is likely to be when the lover leaves in the taxi. It is when the act is over and the boy is gone that one begins to dream about the warmth of his body, the quality of his smile, the tone of his voice. It is the recollection rather than the anticipation of the act that assumes a primary importance in homosexual relations. […] The homosexual imagination is for the most part concerned with reminiscing about the act rather than anticipating it.” – Michel Foucault
I begin this post with a well-known quote by Foucault because I was reminded of it while watching Andrew Haigh’s achingly felt Weekend (2011), in which a one-night stand between two young gay Englishmen becomes a weekend-long romance. As in Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise (1995), the love affair is stamped with an expiration date from the outset: Glen (Chris New, pictured left) is scheduled to depart for the U.S. on Sunday afternoon.
Does—or should—gay romance exist only in the present, unhampered by past traumas, unconcerned with the burden of futurity? It’s a question that queer theorists from Lee Edelman to José Esteban Muñoz have taken up in recent years and that Weekend eloquently dramatizes. The film is a paean to the meaningfulness and power of a bond that both of the lovers know to be ephemeral: the memory of their weekend will be more perfect than a lifetime spent together. As Foucault proposes, memory holds a particular power within homosexual subjectivity and is perhaps even more powerful than experience itself.
Even before they meet, Glen and Russell are already involved in separate projects of memorialization. Glen carries around a tape recorder to collect the testimonies of his sexual partners, which he intends to make into an art piece; Russell keeps track of his own sexual partners in a kind of logbook that doubles as an outlet for fantasies, fears, and daydreams related to his own homosexuality. The film suggests, then, that sex and romance—particularly as they are practiced within the world of gay men—always entail a certain amount of backward-glancing. It’s within the context of this idea that Glen’s final gesture to Russell becomes so emotionally powerful. In giving Russell back the tape recorder that contains his own morning-after “confession,” Glen has not only sanctified their relationship by removing it from public circulation; he has effectively given away to Russell his own souvenir of their time together. It’s a more intimate act even than sex. If, as Foucault claims, the remembrance of things past is even more satisfying than the anticipation of those to come, then in giving away the recording Glen has sacrificed a piece of his own satisfaction in order that Russell’s might increase. A beautiful ending, and the perfect note on which to end this hugely enjoyable blog project.