10 films in a couple of weeks at the Sydney Film Festival. There were some surprises and disappointments. For some reason, I feel compelled to write a bit about this year's lot so, as promised, here's a bit of a round-up of how they came across to me.
First up was Beautiful Darling - a documentary about Candy Darling - glittering figure in New York's '60s bohemia and inspiration to Lou Reed ("Candy came from out of the Island..."), Andy Warhol, Tennessee Williams and Robert Mappelthorpe. Born James Slattery in Long Island, Candy created a star persona that belied an impoverished and often lonely existence. She found fame in Warhol's Flesh (1968) and Women in Revolt (1971), but yearned for the glamour of a Hollywood career. Fellow 'Factory' actors Holly Woodlawn, Jackie Curtis and Penny Arcade are interviewed, as are 'Factory' affiliates Paul Morrissey and Fran Leibowitz. Leibowitz gives the best insights here, but unfortunately Candy was a fairly facile subject for a film and I left the movie with a sense that it hadn't been much more than another exercise in raking over the corpse of the Warhol empire which, despite its significance at the time, just seems more and more vampiric as time moves on. There was too much of this. The film did get me thinking about transexuality and the whole realm of gender identity (and displacement) again though. Also, I suppose Candy (who ended up dying of lymphoma at a young age) would be wrapped to know a film had been made about her. All up, a fairly standard doco, but I wanted more about Candy herself and her struggles with her identity and the recognition of her sexuality. Nice diary excerpts read by Chloe Sevigny and reflections from her devoted and longstanding friend, Jeremiah Newton. This film screened after a great short, Last Address, which simply showed the exteriors of New York apartments of recently-departed NY artists and cultural luminaries, who had succumbed to AIDS. This was simple and powerful in its effect.
Next, was Howl - a docu-drama about Allen Ginsberg, around the time of the publication of his poem of the same name and the subsequent indecency trial it stirred. This was well-handled, with wonderful animation sequences that served to make the words of the poem come alive. Personally, I'd found the poem inpenetrable when I read it. Here, they were reinvigorated and beautiful.
Big surprise was Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll, a docu-drama about the life story of Ian Dury, the foul-mouthed 70s rocker, who had been infected with polio as a child. I thought this would be so-so, but was most pleasantly surprised. Andy Serkis, in the title role, was completely believable as Dury. On the whole, the film was loud and profane, but nicely put together and it didn't lack complexity and heart. As a subject, Dury proved to be complex, smart and interesting. Very entertaining.
That's it for today. I'll post pt 2 sometime in the next couple of days.