The Typist mixes dramatisations of Otto Bremerman’s 1994 historical society interview and his 1950s interviewing of gay sailors with stock footage to great effect, including a sinister advert warning of the dangers of “the homosexual”. “One never knows when the homosexual is about”, the narrator intones gravely while the American flag on screen flutters patriotically, ably revealing the mindset of fear and revulsion that was pedalled to the American public. A vintage animation of a badge with guns firing under an American Eagle amusingly plays while the closeted Bremerman describes the vigour of his sex life during his naval days on base and around the piers.
Director Stolakis focuses on smaller details of scenes, helping to summon the atmosphere of the situation – hands typing up a confession, a bead of sweat on the back of a sailor’s neck being discharged. A radio bulletin plays loudly into the silence as Bremerman gathers the confessional evidence, reporting on Truman awarding medals of honour to military personnel for outstanding acts of bravery; gay sailors, of course, were not defined by – or allowed – their bravery.
Music is excellently mixed and deployed throughout The Typist, leaping from the utilisation of understated, haunting themes to seductive jazz to jingoistic US military band standards without lurching. Robert Arnold’s beautiful colour correction also provides an air of authenticity to the scenes set in 1952.
The personal nature of Stolakis’ documentary, however, also limits it. The Typist never asks how Bremerman felt criminalising his peers or alludes to his hypocrisy – but perhaps is it more important to be educated by The Typist than to judge its central character? It’s just six years since Clinton’s ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy was repealed, suggesting that although progress has been made, there is still some way to go for the US military.
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CAST: Dana Edwards, Monterey Morissey, Matt Nixon, Tulio Ospina
DIRECTOR: Kristine Stolakis
SOUND MIX: Dan Olmsted, Tyler Trumbo (assistant)
COLOUR CORRECTION: Robert Arnold
SYNOPSIS: Otto Bremerman served with the US Navy in the early fifties, typing up the confessions and dishonourable discharges of outed gay seamen. Bremerman, however, was a closeted gay man himself. The Typist is a dramatisation of audio cassette tapes from a 1994 interview Bremerman did with the Gay and Lesbian Historical Society of Northern California, 40 years after he left the military.