Monday, November 14, 2011

Brian Pera's WOMAN'S PICTURE: a movie about, of and with the female sensibility

"Get out your hankies. This one's a weepie," commands the poster tagline for WOMAN'S PICTURE, the new film from Tennessee filmmaker Brian Pera. But it certainly was nothing of the kind for us two gay guys who watched the film last night. But that proved OK: the movie's intelligent enough to enjoy hankie-free. A trilogy of tales about woman -- appearing here as ex-man, as mother, and as daughter/
career girl -- the movie is divided into thirds. The first gives us Ingrid, Eddie, a transgendered lady who has taken the name of her late grandmother; the middle section is devoted to Loretta, a displaced mom whose poor care of her kids resulted in apparent banishment; the third explores Miriam, successful career woman saddled with a Alzheimer mom and a do-nothing boyfriend.

Writer/director Pera (shown at right), who also takes the role of Ingrid's very gay husband and confidant, sees to it that his sections do not overlap, although Miriam-- played by the ever-young and still eminently watchable Ann Magnuson-- has her own little home shopping program on cable, appears throughout the film, and is watched at times by Ingrid and Loretta. Comparisons have been made to both Fassbinder and Sirk in regards to this movie, and while I did not think of either director while watching the film (which does not possess Rainer's energy nor Doug's budget), I can still (sort of) see where the comparisons come from.

How women fit into the world is one of the main themes here, as well as how they behave, vis a vis males. What are their rightful roles, the film would seem to ask us? And while Pera does not answer, he makes us consider all this. Ingrid -- played by Calpernia Addams (above, right), in a performance that is remarkably restrained, cool and near-mysterious -- by changing her sex, has taken away the special mother-son bond from her own mother. No wonder the woman (above, left) still chafes.

Without her children or her role as wife, Loretta no longer has any role. At all. Consequently she's a blank. People come "on" to her -- men, women -- but get no reaction. She has a rich fantasy life, revealed throughout her segment, and especially via one scene toward the finale, but this is hardly a life. As played with great delicacy and finesse by Amy Lavere, this woman is on the brink. But of what?

And Miriam (that's Ms Magnuson, above)? While she would seem to have a wonderful life, the reality is something different. In as good a movie role as she's had for some time, the actress turns this character on her head. Her TV persona is beautifully captured, and as her real life begins to unravel, Magnuson reveals layers of self-doubt, anguish and anger. As her boyfriend Russell (nice job by Paul Provenza) points out, there is all kinds of hypocrisy going on here. The filmmaker does not turn his men into beasts (or even into complete dolts) but allows the differences between the genders to bubble up provocatively.

Perfume also runs through the three stories, and perfume designer Andy Tauer is said to be creating a line of new perfume -- "olfactory portraits" inspired by each character -- but I'll leave this to the more smell-inclined viewers (this is not something akin to John Waters and his scratch-and-sniff Odorama cards). All this smacks of marketing ploys, in any case, which the film really does not need, as it is interesting enough to stand on its own.

The "release" of the movie also appears to be marketing-oriented, with only the Miriam segment of the three currently available to viewers via Video on Demand for $2.99 (or you can purchase the DVD for $10).  Although the film in its entirety has been seen and acclaimed at various festivals, apparently, for now, it will only be exhibited to audiences in sections.

(TrustMovies usually does not post on a movie not available in some form for his readers to see, but this time he misunderstood exactly what was being hawked. As soon as he can locate the link for access of the film, or even its segments, he'll update this post.  Ah-hah: He has just been told that, rather than Monday, November 14, as appeared in the initial press information, the link will be available tomorrow, Tuesday, November 15.  Stand by....

OK, readers: Here's the link. But we've just learned that, due to technical trouble, it will not actually go live until sometime on Friday, November 18.

We also asked the filmmaker about his decision to release the film in sections rather than as its "whole," which was the way it appeared at festivals and on the screener I received. Here's what he had to say:

"Woman's Picture is an ongoing series. And for journalists it might be thought of like a television series, and they get to see the first several episodes, even though the viewer will have to wait a bit to watch them all unfold; that way the journalist can tell them whether the series is worth watching and keeping up with, and waiting for. When a journalist sees the first several episodes or advance screening of a show or a film he doesn't spoil the plot but he's able to give the reader an indication where the series will be going after the first episode or opening moments. He doesn't tell his readers who shot JR. He just lets them know it's worth hanging in to find out. TV stations don’t air all of the series at one time, in one long marathon broadcast."

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