Claire of the Moon (1993): Nicole Conn’s Lesbian Romance (LGBTQ, Lesbian)

By the early 1990s, no American movie with a lesbian theme had been widely released since Desert Heart. Hollywood continued to bleach out gay elements in its mainstream fare, evident in Whoopi Goldberg’s lesbian scene in The Color Purple, and the lack of sexual tension between the female friends in Fried Green Tomatoes. Basic Instinct’s murderous bisexual, played by Sharon Stone as a male fantasy, was ardently protested by gay activists. In Internal Affairs, the lesbian cop partner was just a variation on the male prototype, existing to offer support for the lead heterosexual.

Gay Directors, Gay Films? By Emanuel Levy (Columbia University Press, August 2015).

Into this barren context came Nicole Conn’s lesbian love story, Claire of the Moon, a movie more noteworthy for its production and release strategies than its artistic merits or contribution to genuine lesbian cinema. The setting is a writer’s retreat on the beautiful Oregon coast, run by a sultry lesbian, who mischievously books into the same cottage the elegant Noel Benedict (Karen Trumbo), a respected therapist-writer, and Claire Jabrowski (Trisha Todd), a successful satirist.

Conn uses the familiar premise of two mismatched personalities coming together. Claire is a free-spirited, chain-smoking blonde in tight jeans, who enjoys the thrill of anonymous heterosexual sex, while the turtlenecked Noel still pines for her lost lover. When Noel expresses her lesbianism in a group meeting, she commands Claire’s attention. Unlike Noel, Claire has hard time believing that men and women “speak a different language,” and therefore can never be as close as two women. Avoiding such deeper issues as sexuality and identity, Conn conveniently charts a predictable evolution of sexual attraction.

The movie strains for sophistication and wit, but its language is starch. The central figures are smart, but their company is not. Conn compensates for a drab script with erotic imagery: A lengthy buildup and titillating foreplay on a dance floor finally leads to consummation.

Reportedly many women went to see the film because its sex scenes were steamy by standards of mainstream cinema.