By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
By Roy Edroso
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
By Zachary D. Roberts
With more media elves than ever scrambling for stories, it only takes two similar movies to make up a trend, which is probably why there are so many goddamned trends these days. Just recently, we've been greeted by a pair of neo-graduates (Tadpole, Igby Goes Down); a couple of dark comedies with Susan Sarandon as a rich-bitch mom (Igby, The Banger Sisters); plus two, count 'em, two feel-good journeys into anti-feminism (Secretary, in which a woman doesn't feel alive until her boss whomps her ass, and Amy's Orgasm, which has a male-shunning author dating a macho-pig shock jock and deciding that men are necessary after all). It's deux much!
But every trend has a counter-trend, so the babes are already moving forward again, via two flicks inspired by the female-fixated oeuvre of Douglas Sirk. You missed the Backstory? Well, Sirk directed soapy "women's pictures" of the '50s, which wove social issues into a glossy context, shoving rich psychological meaning into the seams of all the Technicolor fabrics and the beams of phallic oil wells. His signature scene came in Written on the Wind, when Dorothy Malone's wanton mambo subliminally caused the death of her father. Those brothers in Florida should have tried itit's much less messy.
The new epics, of course, take the smirk out of Sirk, pushing everything subliminal way aboveground in contempo fashion. In Todd Haynes's upcoming Far From Heaven, a gay revelation threatens to shatter all that sumptuous '50s veneer (though the leading lady's hair still never moves). And queer sex also figures in François Ozon's 8 Women, a spoofy murder-mystery musical in which the French wenches of the title try to outsmart each other in a lush cabin without a phone line. (Fascinating sidebar: The flick is Catherine Deneuve's second recent musical, if you count that capital-punishment toe-tapper with Björk. Another trend.)
Deneuve was spotted chowing down at French Roast last week, which is so wrong it's almost right. Too bad she then packed her hairspray and headed back to France, ensuring that there'd be no women at the 8 Women premiere. But thank le lord Ozon showed up, so I told him the wackily entertaining movie's so filled with Ozon layers I've seen it twice. "You should see it eight times!" he responded. The très jolie auteur told me that Deneuve and her co-stars really sang all those fizzy pop numbers and mournful ballads. "We knew they were not Celine Dionor Maria Callas," he said, "but it was more important to have real voices." And real sapphism: Fanny Ardant plays a chic lesbian extraordinaire who dives on every hairy crescent that's not on a croissant tray. "If you put eight characters of the same sex in one room," said Ozon, "things happen. You can try it!" (I have, dear, I have.)
But excuse moi, aren't these women basically a bunch of fabulous drag queens? "Yes!" he exclaimed. "The actresses were all my dolls. In English, is there a sexual meaning to doll?" Not unless you want an Amber alert put out.
While we're being terribly soigné, what's the optimal way to do Fashion Week, doll? Easyskip the shows and hit the after-parties, where someone can tell you about the shows anyway. There was a Society 5 bash for Imitation of Christ (which, by the way, has a nominal similarity to Sirk's Imitation of Lifeit all comes together here at La Dolce Musto). There, co-designer Chloë Sevigny told me the show was "like a museum exhibit, a retrospective." "Obviously, it was a comedy," a flack later interjected; Imitation is only two years old.
At the equally young Heatherette's bash at elmo, Richie Rich said, "Our theme was J.T. Leroy. He called me last night and said, 'I'm not coming. Pretend I'm there.' So we got a six-year-old boy who looked like him. Will you write it up? Yay!" And after Marc Jacobs's more grown-up extravaganza, Jacobs revealed, "There was no theme. It was sort of womenand some men in there." Honey, after that French flick, men and women together is a theme.
A real woman's woman, Sex and the City stylist Patricia Field has a whole new side theme. She's doing clothes for The Guiding Light, and I can't wait to see new cast member Joan Collins swathed in boas and a fuck-me mini. Actually, says Field, "She dresses like herself on Dynasty. She knows her body. She's very good!" Especially with tweezers and shoulder pads.
I know Lanford Wilson's body of work, and Burn This is very good. (These are the segues, folks.) A slow Burn at three hours, it still crackles, even if it's pretty much the same play as Frankie and Johnny (you know, stalker-y type urges uptight woman to loosen up). Alas, the campy gay character who emits sex talk, decor jokes, and melodramatic swooning has become a cliché, and it doesn't help that the play invented the cliché.
You want racial stereotypes? Last week I wrote about Shirley Q. Liquor, a drag queen who's reckless enough to tell welfare and ebonics jokes in blackface. Well, Shirley's first night at View Bar attracted a batch of adoring weirdos, but her follow-up was canceled after a group of African Americans protested and the cops shut the place down for the night. Boy, is Shirley's face red now!