“Looking for Langston”
Poetry on Film
“Looking for Langston” is a black and white fantasy. It recreates the men of Harlem during the Renaissance using archival photographs and footage which undercut a story. While a wake is going on, the mourners gather around a coffin. Downstairs is a bar which is quite elegant where men, dressed in tuxedoes, talk and dance. One of the men is dreaming and in his mind he meets Beauty who rejects him. He finds that when he awakes, Beauty is there beside him. It is his story and his visits to clubs that make up the film. As we watch him, we hear voices reading the poetry and essays of Langston Hughes. What is unique about “Looking for Langston” is that we see the freedom of Black men in Harlem in the 1920’s. (The se of the word “Black” is intentional as it represents the period of the movie).
This is an exploration of Langston Hughes’s sexuality. Issac Julien, the director, creates a space of queer liberation around a literary icon. He forces the viewer to think about the period and he gives us a profoundly beautiful and intellectual film. Here is a beautiful film to watch that will also make you think. It parades images of gay Black men across the screen and shows us the world that they created—so much like and so much unlike our world.