31 December 2009

Trailers for 2009 films – part 2

Rage

 

Still Black: A Portrait Of Black Transmen.

 

Stock Shock

Taking Woodstock

 

Transproofed

 

Two Spirits

 

Veselchaki

Trailers for 2009 films – part 1

The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela.


Be Like Others

 Chan di Chummi

La Dany

Life is Hot in Cracktown.

Morrer Como Um Homem.

Prodigal Sons

17 December 2009

Non-fiction writers

Viviane Namaste said: “autobiography is the only discourse in which transsexuals are permitted to speak”.  Obviously this is not true.  There are loads of books, including three by Namaste herself, on transiness in general, apart from autobiography.

But trans persons have other interests.   Here are a few books on other topics.   You may find this a useful list for gift giving or for buying for oneself in this the season of Yule-Saturnalia.

Please feel free to add to this list by using the Comments feature.
  • Jan Morris. The Pax Britannica Trilogy. London:Faber and Faber, 1968.  The three separate volumes: Heaven’s Command, Pax Britannica and Farewell the Trumpets are also available in many different editions.  Morris has written more books than many people have read.  The Trilogy is one of the more readable histories of the British Empire. 














  • Sabrina Ramet. Rocking the State: Rock Music and Politics in Eastern Europe and Russia. Boulder: Westview Press, 1994.
  • Allucquere Rosanne Stone. The war of desire and technology at the close of the mechanical age. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 1995. 




















  • Joan Roughgarden, Evolution and Christian Faith: Reflections of an Evolutionary Biologist. Island Press. 2006. 










  • Deirdre N. McCloskey. The Bourgeois Virtues: Ethics for an Age of Commerce. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006. 










  • William Burke , Christina Kahrl, and Steven Goldman. Baseball Prospectus 2009: The Essential Guide to the 2009 Baseball Season. New York: Plume, 2009.

16 December 2009

Ricardo Parker (1867 - ?) emigrant.

The tale goes thus:

In 1884, the yacht Mignonette, on route from Britain to Australia, stopped for supplies in Madeira on June 2nd. Whilst there, Otilia Ribeiro, an orphaned flower seller, tried to sneak on board with the intention of getting to Australia. This resulted in Richard Parker, the junior member of the crew, hitting her on the head with a boat hook, and the captain rescuing her from drowning. The captain, Tom Dudley, refused her passage, but gave her a contact address in Sidney.

It was just as well for Otilia that she did not secure passage on the Mignonette, for on July 5th, in the south Atlantic, it sank in a storm. The crew members escaped in its dingy, and survived for twenty-four days before being picked up by a ship, only because they killed and ate Richard Parker.

Two of the others were put on trial, Regina v Dudley and Stephens, as an example, found guilty and sentenced to death, and then granted a royal pardon because of the extenuating circumstances.   This is a much cited legal precedent.

Tom Dudley then emigrated to Australia with his family to start anew, without the stigma of the conviction.   He ran a ships chandler shop in Sydney.

Otilia, calling herself Ricardo Parker, and as a man, travelled via Luanda and Goa and turned up in Sydney in 1887 to visit Tom Dudley. She and Dudley had an affair and an adventure on a Barrier Reef island.   Donald McCormick admits that this last part is “imaginative reconstruction”.

Dudley died of the plague in 1900.  

A co-incidence that was noticed at the time is that Richard Parker is also the name of the castaway sailor who is selected by lot to be eaten in Edgar Allen Poe's Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, which had been published in 1838.  This became known again in 1974 when Arthur Koestler ran a competition in The Sunday Times to find the most striking co-incidence, and the two Richard Parkers, suggested by a relative of the historical one, were declared the winner.

A great story.  The sinking of the Mignonette, the cannibalism, the trial and the co-incidence of the name are all true.  The major problem is that the only source of the Ribeiro/Parker thread is McCormick’s book.  He cites no sources, and in the early 1980s when Simpson asked about sources, he could not produce one.  However he did write to The Sydney Morning Herald in July 1961 seeking information about Ribeiro/Parker in Australia. 

We have met Donald McCormick before.  He cited (or is that invented) a reference in The Ochrana Gazette that identified Vassily Konovalov (otherwise known as Alexei Pedachenko) as Jack the Ripper.

Paul Metcalf later retold the tale as his own.

27 November 2009

Trans persons acting in soap operas, telenovelas and other dramatic serials on television

This is a first cut as such a list.   Feel free to add what is missing.


Guilda played Chevalier D’Eon in L'amour humain, 1970, Cinepix.
Carlotta played Robin Ross in Number 96, 1973, Network 10
Carlotta, then pre-op, was already a star in the Les Girls revue in Sydney.  She acted six episodes under the name Carolle Lea, and her identity was kept secret from cast and crew.  When Robin’s boyfriend asks her to marry him, she admits that she had previously been male.  The next day the switchboard at Channel 10 was jammed by viewers wanting to know whether the actor was male or female.
Christopher Morley played Sally Armitage in General Hospital, 1980, ABC
Morley played a friend of one of the main characters for three months, and attracted flirtatious interest of a male character.  This was played straight until she revealed that she was a “man”.  Some say that this was the inspiration for the movie Tootsie, two years later, where the Dustin Hoffman character impersonates a woman to get a job in the soap opera Southwest General Hospital.
Lily Savage played Roxanne in The Bill, 1988-90, Thames Television
Jahna Steele played Candace La Rue in NYPD Blue, 1995, Fox.
Karen Dior played Artiphys in Xena: Warrior Princess, 1997, Universal
Karen Dior played Monica/Dennis in Veronica’s Closet, 1998, NBC
Alexis Arquette played Cleo in The Strip, 1999, Warner Bros
Florencia De la Vega played Florencia de la Suciata in Amor Latino, 2000, Central Park
Alexis Arquette played Jim in Felicity, 2000, WB Television
Alexis Arquette played Caligula in Xena: Warrior Princess, 2001, Universal
Letitia Winter played herself in Emmerdale, 2001, Yorkshire Television
Alexandra Billings played Lois in Karen Sisco, 2003, ABC.
Alexandra’s Wikipedia page says “She is the first trans woman to have played a transgender character on television”.  Which is obviously not true.
Florencia De la Vega played Laisa Roldán in Los Roldán, 2004, Televisión Federal
Alexandra Billings played Ms Mitchell in ER, 2005, NBC
Alexandra Billings played Donna Gibson in Grey’s Anatomy, 2006, ABC
Candis Cayne played Carmelita Rainer in Dirty Sexy Money, 2007-8, ABC
Alexandra Billings played Joanna in Eli Stone, 2008, ABC
Alexis Arquette played lady in jail in Californication, 2008, Showtime
Pequeña P. in El ángel, 2009, Universidad Iberoamericana
This was terminated by Pequeña’s real-life suicide.

14 November 2009

Clara Vaughan, 1864 – a novel

R.D. Blackmore (1825 –1900) was one of the most famous English novelists in the second half of the nineteenth century, but since then his work has been largely forgotten except for Lorna Doone, 1869.

His first novel 'Clara Vaughan' was written in 1853 and published anonymously in 1864. The narrator is female and the Saturday Review, as part of an obsession of the period, was convinced that it had detected a female writer masquerading as a man.
'Another decided feature by which our lady novelists are wont to betray the secret of their authorship is the characteristic mode in which they unconsciously make sport of the simplest principles of physics, and of the most elementary rules or usages of the law.'
Some reviewers believed that the novel had been written by Mary Elizabeth Braddon who was popular at the time.

Blackmore was not only male, but he had practiced law in London for five years at that time.  The novel is now regarded as one of the very first detective stories.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________

A male writer using the voice of a woman is an example of Narrative Transvestity or cross-writing.   It is sometimes referred to as Appropriation of Voice.

This example shows that attempts to detect the gender of a writer by style and by knowledge exhibited by the author/protagonist can lead to wrong conclusions.

18 October 2009

Anna Madrigal (1920- ) landlady.


Anna Madrigal appears in Armistead Maupin's tales of San Francisco where it is revealed that she was raised in a brothel in Winnemucca, Nevada, and that she has a secret that she shares with her lover Edgar Halcyon when he is being blackmailed, although the reader is not informed of the nature of the secret.

She is also shown to be particularly concerned about one of her tenants, Mona Ramsey.

In the second volume she admits to being Mona's father.  Andrew Ramsey had grown up feeling like a girl.  He ran from home at 16, worked at various manual jobs and finally joined the army.  After the war he met a woman who proposed to him and moved with her to Minneapolis where he got a job in a bookstore.  Two years after the birth of their child, Mona, he left and never came back.

In 1964 Andy went to Denmark and came back as Anna Madrigal, taking her name from an anagram of 'a man and a girl'.  She ran a bookshop in San Francisco and then opened a boarding house.  When she saw that her daughter, Mona, enjoying a transitory moment of fame as an advertising whizz, was in San Francisco, Anna approached her and persuaded her to move in as a tenant.
  • Armistead Maupin. Tales of the City. New York, N.Y.: HarperPerennial, 1978.
  • Armistead Maupin. More Tales of the City. New York: Harper & Row, 1980.
  • Alastair Reid (dir). Tales of the City.  Scr: Richard Kramer based on the novel by Armistead Maupin, with Olympia Dukakis as Anna Madrigal, Chloe Webb as Mona Ramsey and Gender as an unnamed trans woman. UK/US Channel 4/KQED/PBS 360 mins 1993.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Of course Anna could not go to Denmark in 1964, because after the Jorgensen affair, Denmark had passed a law limiting gender surgery to Danish citizens.

The revealing of Anna’s gender past does not happen until the second novel, but is brought forward into the first television mini-series.

17 October 2009

Transvestism by Tina

This somewhat strange drawing by Tina is found on p16 of Transvestism … men in female dress edited by David Cauldwell, 1956.  No information is given as to who Tina is.


04 October 2009

Weapons of Mass Distraction

Directed by Stephen Surjik
Script by Larry Gelbart
100minutes 1997 HBO
Gabriel Bryne plays Lionel Powers
Ben Kingsley plays Julian Messenger
Mimi Rogers plays Ariel Powers
Jordan Ladd plays Letitia
Country of finance: US
Nationality of director: US
Location of story: Los Angeles
Filming location: Los Angeles

Synopsis

Powers and Messenger, both unscrupulous entrepreneurs, use blackmail, bribery and other crimes to get their way.  Finally both dig up enough dirt on the other that they have to become partners.   Except that the ‘dirt’ on Powers, which refers to his wife and their threesome with a younger woman, Letitia, is in fact nothing at all to be ashamed of.

Who are they?

Larry Gelbart was one of the writers on Tootsie, 1982.

Jordan Ladd is part of the Ladd acting dynasty.

Mimi Rogers was Agent Dana Fowley in the X-Files, and the mother in The Rapture, 1991.

Gabriel Bryne and Ben Kingsley are well known lead actors.

Conclusion

Alexei, from Leningrad, was sexually abused by his father, who faked paintings by famous artists.  When his father was sent to Siberia, he became a male prostitute.   She was a woman, Ariel, by age 25, and then emigrated to the US with her daughter Letitia.

Any husband should be proud to have a wife who has overcome such obstacles.  Even if, in modesty, she had never actually mentioned them.

Of course the cliché that trans women were sexually abused as children is done far too much in movies.   It is true in only a few cases.

I suppose that a cis actress had to be cast in this film, otherwise the 'surprise' would be anticipated.

03 October 2009

Denis Bloodnok


Major Bloodnok, late of the 3rd Disgusting Fusiliers, OBE, was a character voiced by Peter Sellers in The Goon Show

In 1972's The Last Goon Show of All, Major Denis has an arrangement with Gladys, a rather deep-voiced mistress of Discipline.


In the Goon Show Scripts published by Spike Milligan in the 1970s we are told more of Bloodnok's past.  After he was cashiered from the army having been found cross-dressed, he re-enlisted as Florence Bloodnok and served a year in the women’s ATS, at one point having to report a sailor for trying to interfere with her in an air-raid shelter.


29 September 2009

Surrogates

Directed by Jonathan Mostow
Script by Michael Ferris & John Brancato based on a graphic novel by Robert Venditti & Brett Weldele
88 minutes 2009
Bruce Willis plays Tom Greer
Radha Mitchell plays Jennifer Peters
James Cromwell plays Cantor
Ving Rhames plays the Prophet
Country of finance: US
Nationality of director: US
Location of story: Boston
Filming location: Boston and other towns in Massachusetts.

Did you watch the Matrix films and wonder why no-one had an other-gender body inside the Matrix?  This film does not leave that aspect unexplored.

Instead of a virtual reality Matrix, most people in this film have a surrogate that is a younger, better looking version of themselves.  They send the surrogate out to work and play, and they themselves stay at home in a high-tech chair that allows them to see, hear and feel whatever happened to the surrogate.

A young woman in a skimpy dress is murdered at the beginning of the film.  The surrogate cops, Greer and Peters chase up her operator, and find an overweight middle-aged man.  An attractive young black man is shown by his ID card to be really a middle-aged white man.

Peters’ surrogate is at first operated by the real Jennifer Peters.  Later the real one is killed, and the Peters surrogate is being operated by the bad guy.   Greer has to get himself inside the Peters surrogate so that he can save the world.

To put it simply:  The Bruce Willis character save the world while in this body. 

In conclusion: a middlebrow sex-transfer fantasy for those who do fantasize other-gender bodies, but never actually do it in reality.    This aspect is generally not being mentioned in the reviews.




19 September 2009

In Einem Jahr mit 13 Monden

Directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Script by Rainer Werner Fassbinder
129 minutes 1978
English title: In a Year with 13 Moons
    Volker Spengler plays Erwin/Elvira Weisshaupt
    Gottfried John plays Anton Saitz
    Ingrid Caven plays Die rote Zora
    Elisabeth Trissenaar plays Irene Weisshaupt
    Eva Mattes plays Marie-Ann Weisshaupt        
    Lilo Pempeit plays Schwester Gudrun
Country of finance: West Germany
Nationality of director: West German
Location of story: Frankfurt
Filming location: Frankfurt   

Allegory

The Little Mermaid, in Hans Andersen’s 1836 short story of the same name, falls in love with a prince of the land.  Knowing that being a mermaid, with a tail instead of legs, she cannot win his love, she changes her tail for human legs.  However, she is still a foundling, an outsider and a servant.  He still does not love her.

In In a Year with 13 Moons, Erwin Weisshaupt thinks that he is in love with Anton Saitz, not exactly a prince, but as a businessman close enough for Erwin, the butcher’s assistant.  An off-hand comment by Anton: ‘Too bad you’re not a girl', was taken too literally.  Erwin goes to Casablanca, and comes back as Elvira.  However, Anton is still not interested.

In this way, In a Year with 13 Moons is more faithful to Andersen’s story than is the Disney animation that took its name, but altered the ending.

Synopsis

Elvira, in male clothing, tries to buy sex from rent-boys who beat her up when they discover that she is not a man.  At home, Elvira’s lover Christophe, has returned after a long absence.  They argue and he leaves for good.  Elvira chases after his car and is knocked down.  Elvira’s hooker friend Zora sees this and cleans Elvira up.  Elvira takes Zora to the abattoir where Elvira worked when she was a man.  Elvira goes home, attempts to asphyxiate herself but is saved when her ex-wife Irene arrives.  Irene is concerned that a newspaper article about Elvira which mentioned the businessman Anton Saitz might cause trouble.  Elvira promises to go to Saitz and ask for forgiveness.  Zora finds Elvira crying in a video arcade and takes her to see a gay friend who has been eight years in a mental hospital, and has not been outside for months.  Zora then takes Elvira to see Sister Gudrun at the orphanage where Elvira was raised.  Elvira goes to visit Saitz, meeting an ex-accountant who was fired for being ill, and a suicide with an amazingly positive attitude about things.  Saitz at first fails to recognize Elvira, but goes home with her for a chat.  Zora is still in Elvira’s flat, and while Elvira is making coffee, Saitz and Zora start to make out.  Depressed by this, Elvira cuts her hair and dresses in male clothing, and goes to see Irene and their daughter Marie-Ann to ask if she can return to being Erwin.  It is too late.  Elvira goes to see the journalist who had taken the interview, but it is after 11pm.  Elvira goes home and kills herself.  Zora and Anton, still making out, do not notice.

Who is who

Rainer Werner Fassbinder (1954 – 1982) was a prodigy of West German cinema, completing 40 films, 2 television series, 24 stage plays, 36 acting roles and more in 15 years before dying of a drug overdose.

Armin Meier (1943-1978), a former butcher, was Fassbinder’s lover 1974-8.  After a break-up he committed suicide on Fassbinder’s birthday.  He was in 7 of Fassbinder’s films.

Ingrid Caven (1938 – ) actress and singer.  She was married to Fassbinder 1970-2.  She has been in over 50 films.  Her current lover French writer Jean-Jacques Schuhl has written a book entitled Ingrid Caven which won the "Prix Goncourt" 2000.

Lilo Pempeit (1922 –1993) is Fassbinder’s mother.  She acted in 23 films, mostly directed by her son.

Volker Spengler (1939 – ) actor.  He was the adulterer Ardalion in Fassbinder’s Despair, 1978, and Hermann Goering in The Ogre, 1996.

Eva Mattes (1954 – ) actress.  Jury’s Special Grand Prix at Cannes 1979.  Best Actress at Bavarian Film Awards 1981.  She acted in three of Fassbinder’s films, and then played Rainer Fassbinder in A Man Called Eva, 1984.  She has a daughter with director Werner Herzog. 

Curiosities

1978 had 13 new moons.

In addition to script and direction, Fassbinder designed the sets, edited and did the camera work.  He did this in no other.   He also expanded Erwin/Elvira’s biography as a short story.

The speech at the end of the slaughterhouse sequence is the closing monologue from Goethe’s Torquato Tasso, 1790,  where the poet in painful awareness of the arbitrariness of his existence switches between self-torture and self-confidence.

Two quotations from Schopenhauer’s The World as Will and Representation on suicide as an affirmation of the will.

A clip from Claude Chabrol’s Le Boucher, 1970 (about a butcher who is sex-murderer).  Armin Meier had been a butcher.

The ‘I Like to Hike’ scene from Jerry Lewis’ You’re Never Too Young, 1955, a gender switch version of The Major and the Minor, 1942 (both films are about passing as children).

The opening scene, along the bank of the Main River at dawn is accompanied by Mahler’s adagio movement from his Fifth symphony which is also used in the opening, also dawn, sequence of Luchino Visconti’s Death in Venice, 1971.

While Elvira is asleep, Zora watches on television a news program about Pinochet’s Chile, and then there is a cameo by Fassbinder in the program.

The anecdote is told by the friend released from the mental hospital about a cemetery apparently of young children until it is explained that the dates are not of the person’s lifespan, but of the time during  his life when he had a friend.  This anecdote is of course also told in Orson Well’s Mr Arkadin, 1955.

Discussion

The film is very bleak, and all the more so as it was Fassbinder’s follow-up to the commercially successful The Marriage of Maria Braun.  It follows the last two days of Elvira’s life.  She meets or visits most of the significant persons in her life, and from the dialogue we find out her biography.  That Erwin was born illegitimately during to war, and given up to an orphanage.  He was almost adopted, until the birth mother would not sign the papers because she was not able to admit the existence of the child to her husband.  Erwin worked in an abattoir and married Irene, the manager’s daughter.  He developed a crush on Anton, with whom he was involved in a shady deal with meat.  Anton said: “Too bad you’re not a girl”.  Erwin went to Casablanca and returned as a woman, Elvira, but was still rejected by Anton.  Part of the irony is, as Saitz’s bodyguard says, “nobody loves Anton Saitz”.  He has no wife or girlfriend.  He appears to be the type of man who takes a woman, and then tires of her and moves on.  Had Elvira been a female from birth, she still could not have made Anton love her.  It is part of Elvira’s naivety that she does not understand this.


The genre of male-to-female transsexual narratives is small.  However In a Year with 13 Moons does not seem to be of the type.  These films deal with the difficulties of changing gender, of operations and hormones, of building a new life and seeking acceptance.  In A Year with 13 Moons this is suggested rather than detailed - indeed of hormones there is no mention at all.  The film is about a person, the gender hardly matters, who is failed by all those who know him, and who gives up.  In this it is like other Fassbinder films, especially Fox and his Friends, 1974.

Most of the books on Fassbinder describe this film as his most personal.  In addition to directing and writing the script, he expanded Erwin/Elvira’s biography as a short story, he designed the sets, edited and did the camera work.  He did this in no other.  He also cast his mother as Sister Gudrun.  This of course does not mean that it is autobiographical - at least not in a straightforward way.  Fassbinder was not transgendered.  He was more of what the modern gay scene would call a bear, and he usually had a beard.  Unlike some other German directors, Lothar Lambert and Rosa von Praunheim, he never put on a frock to appear in front of the camera, and very few of his films contain transgendered characters (although it is said that there are undeclared drag cameos in several of them).  However Laurens Straub has argued that the film is indeed autobiographical: “He could feel like a woman more than a man .... his quickness, his sense for intrigue ... and maybe he was longing to be a woman”.  Straub is the writer of A Man Like Eva made five years later, when Fassbinder was also dead, in which Eva Mattes (who plays Elvira’s daughter, Marie-Ann, in In a Year with 13 Moons) played Fassbinder himself, a rather unattractive portrait.

Fassbinder made this film immediately after his lover Armin Meier committed suicide after one of their frequent rows over Fassbinder’s affairs with others or drugs or politics, a normal part of their dramatic relationship.  The immediate cause was that Fassbinder was taking a different lover to the Cannes film festival.  Meier took an overdose of pills on Fassbinder’s birthday.  His body was not discovered until five days later when Lilo Pempeit, Fassbinder’s mother, who had a key, came to investigate because the neighbours were complaining of a bad smell.  Fassbinder did not attend the funeral.   Meier, like Erwin had been a butcher.  Erwin’s sex-change is an attempt to buy love, a cry of loneliness, which Fassbinder identified with Meier.  At the same time there is much of Fassbinder himself in Elvira, especially the anomic experience of urban life, which is not the way that Meier experienced it.  However, the extreme passiveness of Elvira, and the simple-mindedness is such that one is doubtful that this is a portrait of Meier - surely Fassbinder is either insulting his dead lover, or is playing intellectual games.  And while Fassbinder is part of Elvira, surely Fassbinder is part of Saitz also, in particular the manager of people who takes multiple lovers and then casts them aside.

Fassbinder had dedicated his 1974 film Fox and His Friends, which is about a working-class gay man exploited by his middle-class lover, to Meier and played the title-role himself.  In 1977 he contributed a segment to Germany in Autumn which mainly consists of Fassbinder losing his temper as Meier voices working-class reactionary clichés about terrorism and authority.  While Fassbinder grieved in his own way at Meier’s death, when he locked himself in Volker Spengler’s flat in Frankfurt for several days, the cynics who knew him were predicting that he was turning his lover’s death into a new film.

Fassbinder is not the first filmmaker to dramatize his dead lover with a gender switch.   The playwright and screenplay writer Terence Rattigan had an affair with Kenneth Morgan which ended with Kenneth’s suicide.  In the play, later film, The Deep Blue Sea, 1952 and 1955, Kenneth has become Hester who twice attempts suicide as details of her affair with an ex-RAF pilot become known.  Her husband William is based on Rattigan himself.

Let us return to Hans Andersen.  Andersen, a closeted gay man who never married, had a lifelong friendship with Edvard Collin, of whom he wrote “he was the antagonist to my almost girlish nature”.  When Collin announced that he would marry, Andersen wrote The Little Mermaid.  He later confessed that nothing in his writing had ever moved him more.  Even his first biographer, who is otherwise coy, wrote: “the little mermaid was himself ... She lost the prince, saw him wed another”.

The film contains several past-tense narratives: Elvira’s story of her life with Christoph told to Zora at the slaughterhouse; Sister Gudrun’s story of Erwin’s childhood; the cancer victim’s story of Saitz.  This is a technique from pre-cinematic drama when flashbacks could not be done.  Gudrun’s tale of how Erwin was born illegitimately to Anna Weisshaupt while her husband was a prisoner of war, and how her inability to admit this prevented Erwin from being properly adopted was written by Fassbinder as a short story - only parts of it are narrated in the film.

Volker Spengler, the actor who plays Elvira, does not specialize in feminine roles.  He plays Elvira more with bravery than conviction.  And when he switches to male clothing at the end, he looks natural as a man - very unlike Dil in The Crying Game , 1992, who looks like a woman in men’s clothing.

Zora, Erwin's friend says: ‘She just did it.  And she didn't have a good  reason, like, because of her soul, or something.  I don't think she was even gay.  Isn't that right,  baby?  You weren't even gay when you went to Casablanca.'   This set Elvira apart from almost all transsexuals, most of whom have felt since childhood that they should really be the other gender.  This is a dismissal of the opinions re the transgendered experience.  It is not social constructionist, nor is it essentialist; it is neither nature nor nurture which lead Erwin to become Elvira.  It is rather an existentialism of terrifying arbitrariness - a decision based on happenstance rather than pattern.  There is one other film that features a transsexual - much better adjusted than Elvira - whose change was based equally on a whim, and whose story is also told in a past-tense narrative.  This other is Tina in Pedro Almodovar's Law of Desire, 1987, who had had the change as a teenager as part of an affair with her father.  Like Elvira, Tina became a woman because she conformed to the whims of others.


17 September 2009

My Human Gets me Blues

A song on the album Trout Mask Replica by Captain Beefheart (also known as Don Van Vliet) and His Magic Band.

'I saw yuh baby in yer x-ray gingam dress
I knew you were under duress
I knew you under yer dress
...

You were afraid you'd be the devils red wife
But it's alright God dug yer dance
'n would have you young 'n in his harum

Dress you the way he wants cause never had a doll                   
Cause everybody made him a boy
'n God didn't think t' ask his preference
You can bring yer dress 'n yer favourite dog'

  • Captain Beefhart & His Magic Band. Trout Mask Replica. LP  Straight STS 1053 – 1969.
  • John Muir (ed). The Lives and Times of Captain Beefheart.  Babylon Books. no date, probably 1980.

This video is of two songs: She's Too Much For My Mirror & Human Gets Me Blues.

15 September 2009

Helena Amwrosjewa & Georg Schachnin

The Moscow State Circus in the 1960s featured the following clown act.

An amazon and a tiny absent-minded professor come into the ring. She plays a trombone loudly, skilfully and in horrible taste; he accompanies her on the piano. They then both remove their wigs to show that the Amazon is a man and the professor is a woman.

11 September 2009

3 X ‘I Wish I was a girl’ – the lyrics

‘I Wish I was (sic) a girl’ is a popular title for a song. The lyrics in some cases are rather odd.

Do any of these lyrics give the impression that the singer will actually start down the gender path?

The Pink Fairies, 1973

The boys come down to see me
I know that they can't believe me
I don't need their coffee bars
or clapped-out racing cars

You can tell I was the only one
My school days weren't much fun
As a child I was the only one
I can't say I was a son of a gun
because
I wish I was a girl

As a street fighter I don't make it
When the boys cut loose I can't take it
The sight of Blood don't turn me on
When the trouble starts I'm long gone
Oh, I wish I was a girl'.

Counting Crows, 1998

The devils in the dreamin’
He tells you I’m not sleepin’
In my hotel room alone


With nothing to believe in
You dive into the traffic rising up
And its so quiet
You’re surprised and then you wake


For all the things you’re losing
You might as well resign yourself to try and make a change
And I’m going down to hollywood
They’re gonna make a movie from the things
That they find crawling round my brain


I wish I was a girl
So that you could believe me
And I could shake this static every time I try to sleep
I wish for all the world
That I could say
Hey, elizabeth, you know Im doing all right
These days


The devils in the dreamin
You see yourself descending
From the building to the ground


And you watch the sky receding
And you spin to see the traffic
Rising up and its so quiet
And you’re surprised and then you wake


For all the things I’m losing
I might as well resign myself to try and make a change
And I’m going down to hollywood
They’re gonna make a movie from the things
That they find crawling round my brain


I wish I was a girl
So that you could believe me
And I could shake this static every time I try to sleep
I wish for all the world
That I could say, hey, elizabeth,
You know I’m doing all right these days


And one of these dreams
You forgive me
It makes me think of the bad decisions
That keep you at home
How could anyone else have changed
But these are wrong conclusions
That leave you alone
How could everyone rearrange
How could everyone else have changed
What I see
I believe


For all the things I’m losing
I might as well resign myself to try and make a change
And I’m going down to hollywood
They’re gonna make a movie from the things
That they find crawling round my brain


I wish I was a girl
So that you could believe me
And I could shake this static every time I try to sleep
I wish for all the world
That I could say, hey, elizabeth,
You know I’m doing all right these days
Well I cant sleep at night [repeated]

Violent Delight, 2003

I wish I was a girl so I'd see more tits
I wish I could jack by dipping in a pit
I only have a dick that's quite hairy
My ass is too, that's kinda scary


I wish I was a girl


I don't care about the blood, I don't care about the pain
Cos being a girl's the only thing that's on my brain
Cost being a guy is really boring
And cross dressing just isn't my thing


Some people think I might be gay
But I don't swing the other way
I just wanna be a girl so damn much
To fell my clit as it gets.........


But if I was a girl I couldn't drive no more
Cos I couldn't tell the difference between the clutch and the door
I'd get mood swings and I'd have to shave my pits
But I wouldn't really care cos I would have massive tits
I wouldn't have to put up with erections all the time
I'd get a better job when performing 69
Cos being a girl would be so cool
Cos when you cum you don't leave a pool


Mother


Why wasn't I a girl
[repeat 12 times]
Why
[Chorus and out]

And for the other side with better grammar

Beyoncé, 2009

If I were a boy
Even just for a day
I’d roll outta bed in the morning
And throw on what I wanted then go
Drink beer with the guys
And chase after girls
I’d kick it with who I wanted
And I’d never get confronted for it.
Cause they’d stick up for me.

[Chorus]
If I were a boy
I think I could understand
How it feels to love a girl
I swear I’d be a better man.
I’d listen to her
Cause I know how it hurts
When you lose the one you wanted
Cause he’s taken you for granted
And everything you had got destroyed

If I were a boy
I could turn off my phone
Tell everyone it’s broken
So they’d think that I was sleepin’ alone
I’d put myself first
And make the rules as I go
Cause I know that she’d be faithful
Waitin’ for me to come home (to come home)

(Chorus)

It’s a little too late for you to come back
Say its just a mistake
Think I’d forgive you like that
If you thought I would wait for you
You thought wrong

(Chorus)

But you’re just a boy
You don’t understand
Yeah you don’t understand
How it feels to love a girl someday
You wish you were a better man
You don’t listen to her
You don’t care how it hurts
Until you lose the one you wanted
Cause you’ve taken her for granted
And everything you have got destroyed
But you’re just a boy

07 September 2009

Cold Souls

Directed and written by Sophie Barthes

101 mins 2009

Paul Giamatti plays Paul Giamatti

Dina Korzun plays Nina

Emily Watson plays Claire Giamatti

Katherine Winnick plays Sveta

Anna Dukova plays Olga

Country of finance: USA/France

Nationality of director: French

Location of story: New York, St Petersburg

Filming location: New York, St Petersburg.

SYNOPSIS

Paul, paralyzed by anxiety about playing the lead in Uncle Vanya on Broadway, reads in the New Yorker about a new service Soul Storage which removes your soul and preserves it until you want it back. He does this and becomes too light-hearted. So he rents the soul of a Russian poet, which enables him to get the performance just right. In St Petersburg, where souls are bought and sold rather than stored for a fee, the boss’s wife, Sveta, a soap-opera actress, wants the soul of an American actor. She gives a list of 12 names of famous actors. Her husband asks why no actresses on the list? Nina, the mule who transports souls between St Petersburg and New York inside her body, steals the only actor soul that the New York Office has. She tells Sveta that it is Al Pacino’s soul. Paul wants his soul back but is not to be found. He tracks down Nina, and then goes with her to St Petersburg. He finds out that his rented soul is that of Olga, a factory worker, and that unable to get her soul back, she has committed suicide. Nina and Paul drug Sveta so that they can extract Paul’s soul from her. They do so. It has become dried up from her soap-opera performances. They both return to New York where the Soul Storage company has been taken over by a hedge fund.

CURIOSITIES

Both Sveta and Paul acquire opposite-gender souls. In neither case does this affect their self-identity, their mannerisms or their attitude.

Olga dies without her soul. This is opposite to the legends in The Golden Bough where external soul storage is used to avoid death.

Why is it, in western movies, that it is always winter in Russia?

30 August 2009

Psycho

Novel by Robert Bloch, New York: Simon & Shuster. 1959.
Film directed by Alfred Hitchcock.
Script by Joseph Stefano.
109 mins, 1960.
Anthony Perkins plays Norman Bates
Janet Leigh plays Marion Crane
Vera Miles plays Lila Crane
Martin Balsam plays Milton Arbogast
Country of finance: USA
Nationality of director: UK
Location of story: Arizona
Filming location: California, Arizona.

Synopsis

Norman Bates poisoned his widowed mother when she was forty, when she took a lover, had her embalmed and buried, and then two months later dug her up and kept her around the house. This left her a little bit immobile, and so he had to move for her. So he dressed as her, and as such carried out her will. Especially her will to protect her son from strange women, and to that end it was sometimes required that she must kill them.

Marion Crane stole $40,000 from her employer, and ran away. She stayed in the Bates Motel. Norman spied on her as she undressed. ‘Mother’ then killed her. Norman then sank her and her car in a nearby swamp without finding the money.

The detective who comes after her is killed by ‘Mother’ when he enters the house. Eventually Norman is arrested and the police psychologist declares that he is a transvestite.

Curiosities

Hitchcock in his determination that audiences would not anticipate the climax cheated from the point of view of gender impersonation. Anthony Perkins does not play ‘Mother’ for the first two killings. In the famous shower killing scene, 'mother' is played by Margo Epper, a stuntwoman; and in the knifing at the top of the stairs scene she is played by another stuntwoman who goes by the name of Mitzi. Mitzi is petite and completely unlike Anthony.

The voice overs by “mother’ are even more rococo. First hired was Paul Jasmin, an aspirant actor who had developed, as a joke, a practice of phoning well-known actors as 'Eunice Ayers'. Hitchcock also hired actresses Jeanette Nolan and Virginia Gregg to record the same lines. The version on the sound track is a splicing together of the three voices. From word to word it jumps from one to the other.

Like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, 1974, and Silence of the Lambs, 1991, Psycho is sort of, loosely, based on rumours of Ed Gein.

In Robert Bloch's novel Norman is in his forties, short and fat. However in the film, Anthony Perkins is still in his twenties, which changed the nature of Norman.

The first US film ever to show a toilet being flushed.

The film is in black & white because a) Hitchcock thought that it would be too gory in colour, b) he wanted to make it for under $1m c) he was making a superior version of the cheap b/w B-movies that did so well in the 1950s.

Some people have speculated about the licence plate on Marion’s second car: NFB-418. NFB =National Film Board of Canada, and 418 is the area code of Quebec City where Hitchcock had made I Confess, 1953. However there is no Canadian money or content in the film.

In the opening scene, Marion wears a white bra. After she steals the money, she wears a black bra.

The white Ford sedan is the same car used in Leave It to Beaver, 1957.

The house was built by cannibalizing several stock unit sections. The tower is from the house in Harvey, 1950.

It is Vera Miles, not Janet Leigh, in the shower scene in the trailer.

Parallels with Orson Well’s Touch of Evil, 1958.
An extended show-off dolly shot as a opening.
Janet Leigh is harrassed by a transvestite (an uncredited Mercedes McCambridge as a man) in a cheap motel in the US South West.
Both hotel managers are badly dressed, nervous, stammers, uncomfortable with women.
For more see the article by John Hall.

Is Norman a transvestite?

The MPAA censors objected to the use of the term "transvestite" to describe Norman Bates in the final wrap-up. They insisted it be removed, until writer Joseph Stefano used a dictionary to prove to them it was a clinical psychology term with no sexual connotation. They thought he was trying to get one over on them and place a vulgarity in the picture.

The psychiatrist at the end claims that Norman was a transvestite. Purely technically, as he sometimes dressed as his mother, then he must have been. But he wore her dress over his male clothes, and has no existential need to crossdress as an end in itself. In previous decades the term ‘pseudo transvestite’ was used for persons who cross dress e.g. to commit a crime, to appear on stage etc. Norman is more of a pseudo transvestite than an existential transvestite.

He is not like any other transvestite that you may have met.

Other transvestites in Hitchcock’s films.
Murder, 1930. Handel Fane, a trapeze artist who also does female roles on stage, is the killer.
To Catch a Thief, 1954. Danielle Foucard imitates a retired jewel thief so that he will be blamed.

Conclusion

Psycho joins a puritanical view of sex with psychopathology. This illiberal view was continued in giallo and slasher films in great number.

Psycho was effectively the first slasher film, a genre that generally retained gender ambiguity (see Clover’s book).

Bell-Metereau sees Psycho as the start of a new era, particularly in contrast to Some Like It Hot of the previous year. The Dame role, dressing as an older woman, Charleys’ Aunt and Old Mother Riley, a tradition that goes back to medieval morality plays and is found in Shakespeare, Music Hall and Pantomime, is usually taken to be good-natured (if you ignore the misogyny) but has had a dark side all along (think of Lon Chaney in The Unholy Three ,1925 and 1930, Lionel Barrymore in The Devil Doll 1936). Psycho is the iconic Dame and murder film, and much better made than most of the other films that came in its wake.

We can admire Psycho as a film, but the gates that it opened, not just the murderous Dame characters, but also the psychotic transy killers who came afterwards, added an undesirable colour to the public perception of trans persons.

There are transgendered killers. I have featured some of them on my other blog. But there are far too many in movies compared to a) the number of trans characters in movies b) the numbers of real killers who are transgendered.

Sequels and Remakes

There are three sequels: Psycho II, Psycho III, Psycho IV: The Beginning. In these Anthony Perkins does get to play ‘mother’ as well as Norman.

Psycho was remade shot-by-shot from Joseph Stephano’s script, copying the camera angles of the originals, with the same errors, and in colour, by Gus Van Sant in 1998.
  • Rebecca Louise Bell-Metereau. Hollywood Androgyny. New York: Columbia University Press, 1985. Second Edition 1993: 129-132.
  • Stephen Rebello. Alfred Hitchcock and the making of Psycho. New York: Dembner Books. 1990.
  • Carol J.Clover. Men, Women, and Chain Saws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1992.
  • John W. Hall. “Touch of Psycho”. Bright Lights Film Journal. September 1995. www.brightlightsfilm.com/14/psycho.html.
  • Richard Scheib. “Psycho”. The SF, Horror and Fantasy Film Review. 1998. www.moria.co.nz/horror/psycho.htm.
  • “Psycho (1960 film)”. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psycho_%281960_film%29

28 August 2009

The Rose

Directed by Mark Rydell
Script by Michael Cimino (uncredited) & Bo Goldman, based on a story by Bill Kerby
125 mins 1979
Bette Midler plays Mary Rose Foster
Alan Bates plays Rudge Campbell
Frederick Forrest plays Huston Dyer
Michael Greer plays emcee
Kenny Sacha plays Rose impersonator
Sylvester plays Diana Ross impersonator
Claude Sacha plays impersonator
Michael St Laurent plays impersonator
Country of finance: US
Nationality of director: US
Location of story: New York, Florida
Filming location: New York, Los Angeles

Synopsis

Rose Foster is and is not Janice Joplin. She is a big blues singer in the 1960s given to self-destructive behaviour. She is kept going by the bullying of her manager, Rudge. She takes up with Huston, an AWOL-soldier cum chauffeur, and then drives him away. One of the best scenes is 40 minutes into the film when she takes Huston into a supposed gay bar where she used to work, and the drag performers pull her on stage to sing with them.

Who is who

This is Bette Midler’s first real film. She had first made her name singing at the gay Continental Baths in New York. She went on to become a big star as a singer and actor.

Alan Bates is a distinguished English actor who started in the 1950s. He was awarded a CBE in 1996. In The Rose he does not attempt a US accent. He has never played a drag or transgendered role.

The club emcee is Michael Greer who was in The Gay Deceivers, 1969, and was the flamboyant prison drag queen in Fortune and Men’s Eyes, 1971 (on both stage and film). He has worked only infrequently since the 1970s, probably because he was so good in Fortune and Men’s Eyes that he was typecast.

For Kenny Sacha this was his first film. In the next five years he did Bette Midler impersonators in the television shows Madame’s Place and Simon & Simon, and and was a female impersonator in Miss Lonelyhearts, 1983. After that he played a few male roles, but died in 1992 of AIDS.


Sylvester is Sylvester James, who was The Cockettes in the early 1970s, and went on to become a famous disco singer. His biggest hit was "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)". He died in 1988. He contined doing drag until the end.

Claude Sacha appeared in only this film. One wonders if he is Kenny Sacha’s brother?

Michael St Laurent appeared in only this film. One wonders if he is part of the St Laurent voguing house featured in Paris is Burning, 1990?


Curiosities

The crowd in the gay bar does not look gay.

There are 6 drag queens/performers in the club, but only 5 are credited.

When the emcee removes his dress, he is wearing a white tuxedo underneath. However when he was in the dress we do not see trousers underneath, and he is not shown rolling down the legs.