Film Festival Day One - One movie I loved and two I really didn't
I can see why so many people loved Eloise
a Spanish lesbian coming-of-age film - much of it is tender and lyrical, and it doesn't villainize the quite cute boyfriend on whom the doomed heroine Asia starts cheating with the eponymous object of desire. It does villainize Asia's mother though, even if it does make the point that this is a quite tight family and all the more so because of the nameless sins of the husband she rejected - I was zoning a bit at a crucial point and it may be that he was gay. Essentially, though, this is a movie in which the heroine is given a hard time by her mother on the even vague suspicion that she might be seeing a girl, in which the mother summons the girlfriend to warn her off, and in which in the ensuing chase through the streets, Asia ends up walking in front of a car, spending time in a coma dreaming of swimming underwater with her girlfriend, and dies. And the mother Learns A Valuable Lesson and is half-way civil to Eloise whom she has forbidden the deathbed, but to whom she gives back the drawing Eloise had left by the bed when she snuck in. And then there is a dream sequence in which Asia and Eloise get on a bus and ride into the sunset.
Yes it's cute; yes it's tender; but do we really have to go back to the days when one of the lesbian couple has to die at the end? Is this the Twilight generation future of the lesbian date movie?
Please goddess not.
And then there was the complicated Fail of To Die As A Man
which much of the - mostly cis - audience loved, but which left me feeling horribly alienated and several bits of which would in any case have pinged my WTFdar rather loudly.
Tonia is a middle-aged drag performer who has had a lot of plastic surgery - she was ripped off - and breast implants, but won't have reassignment surgery because of complicated and superstitious religious beliefs. She has an unsatisfactory drug addict boyfriend, a cute dog and a son by an early marriage who is on the run after deserting from the Army and homophobically killing a fellow-soldier with whom he had been fucking. Tonia is threatened by a younger cuter rival in the show and falls out with their boss over money. Her relationship with the boyfriend survives his stealing a lot of her stuff; her locking him up to go cold turkey; and his attempted suicide. (The cute dog has hidden a lot of the missing stuff in the garden, it turns out). A trip to the countryside results in their meeting a weird trans dominatrix and her slaves; she quotes German poetry at them, and a nighttime wander in the woods results in their overhearing Anthony Hegarty singing about Jesus. Tonia and boyfriend run away back to Lisbon, where she discovers her implants are infected and need to be removed.Dying, she reverts to her old identity; the boyfriend takes a fatal overdose on the beach. They are buried together and her friends mourn her - regarding the reversion to being buried in a suit as one of her little jokes - while she sings a fado in full drag in Heaven.
Here's the thing - how would people feel about a movie in which someone, for religious reasons, renounced queer identity on their deathbed? A perfectly plausible scenario, after all - it does happen.
I could believe in Tonia's decision, in a sense, given that her body had betrayed her, but the movie was set up to disrespect her femininity as fake,as petty, as posturing, as caught up with bad choices whereas her detransitioning was portrayed in a deeply positive light, even if her friends decided to ignore it. And then there was the creepy oracular woman out in the country - the son's killing of his lover was triggered by her too.
I know that the regular bizarre shifts of tone were part of what people liked about the movie, but they irritated me, especially given that I was feeling alienated anyway. Still, some nice songs, pretty scenery and cute deranged boys for them as like them.
One of the reasons why I was so alienated was that I had just seen Beautiful Darling
a labour of love film in which Jeremiah Newton, Candy Darling's minion and best friend, got to talk about her for an hour and change, with lots of photographs, lots of video footage and some talking heads of varying cluelessness or wisdom. Fran Leibowitz came up with the old chestnut about how trans women can't be real because they were never girls - and Jayne County responed admirably by just refusing to engage and saying this was transphobic bullshit. ( Which is probably a better response than what I would say about how Fran Leibowitz knows nothing about the inside of Candy's head when she was five, and that acculturation is a two way street and that kids, especially trans kids, are awfully wilful, and that maintaining one's inner sense of self in the face of endless expectations and punishments means that it is deeply validated rather than otherwise - but I talk too much when confronted with bigotry.)
Apparently there isn't much footage of the show Candy did with a very young DeNiro - who got the job because his mother was working wardrobe on the show - but there is of other Darling and Jackie Curtis shows from before they got caught up with Warhol. Warhol comes out of the movie as both saint and devil - he gave Candy fame, but never paid her much and dropped her when fashion shifted. It made the point that Tennessee Williams cast her and admired her performance in Small Craft Warning.
What it did most of all was just make clear that Candy was someone to whose memory her best friend has been devoted since 1974 and whose legacy he has fiercely protected. That's a monument in itself
Candy's letters and diaries were read by Chloe Sevigny - a wonderful choice.
When I was in my lat teens and early twenties, I hero-worshipped the trinity of Warhol performers -Jackie Curtis, Holly Woodlawn and Candy Darling - I've got to meet Holly a couple of times, but both Candy and Jackie were dead several years before I made it to the US.
Still, there's a lot of her in this film and a lot on Youtube and Gender Variant Biography. She will be remembered and go on being - not a role model, but an icon - for young trans women.