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April 25, 2006

Owner of a Lonely Heart


Close Your Eyes and Hold Me/Me wo tojite daite
Itsumichi Isomura - 1996
Asia Pulp Cinema Region 1 DVD


Transfixed/Mauvais Genres
Francis Girod - 2001
Picture This! Entertainment Region 1 DVD

My significant other, who as a matter of course is very opinionated on all sorts of matters, refuses to see Transamerica because she feels that having a biological woman portray a transgendered woman is dishonest. I can see her point in that one can argue that as good as Felicity Huffman may be, and I am certainly a fan of hers, it's similar to having white actresses in biracial roles such as in Pinky or Imitation of Life (1959). For my S.O., the right thing would have been to given the starring role to Calpernia Addams. Short of having a transgendered person portraying a transgendered person, my S. O. thought one of the bravest performances was that of Steven Mackintosh in Different for Girls. I still plan on seeing Transamerica and Breakfast on Pluto eventually, but in the meantime I caught up with two films I had previously read about.

What Close Your Eyes and Hold Me and Transfixed have in common is that both are about transgendered women who perform in nightclubs and are unhappy in love. With it's empty, industrial settings and sense of alienation of Antonioni and constant play of sexual and gender dynamics resembling Fassbinder, Close Your Eyes and Hold Me teeters between art film and exploitation. Young professional, Amane, accidentally hits Hanabusa with his car. Seeking her out to maker sure she has recovered from an injury, Amane begins an obsessive relationship which challenges his sense of self. Juri, a receptionist in love with the obvlivious Amane, seeks out Hanabusa only to get involved with her as well. The elegiac music suggests that love is doomed, though the ending hints at a resolution based on mutual needs.

Hanabusa is portrayed by Kumiko Takeda. As gorgeous as she is, I had to wonder if there was another actor such as Shinnosuke Ikehata, or if such casting would commercially limit the film as had happened with Funeral Parade of Roses. The film's story is by Shungiku Uchida, whose writing is getting wider recognition.

One literal translation of the French title for Transfixed is "Bad Family". Francis Girod's film is about the poisoned relationships between fathers and sons. Robinson Stevenin won a Cesar award for portraying a troubled transexual accused of the murder of several prostitutes, some also transgendered. While there is an obvious nod to Rear Window, Transfixed also has similarities to DePalma beyond Dressed to Kill, as well as the tales of murderous families of Claude Chabrol. One bright spot in this otherwise bleak story is seeing Stevenin taking on Francoise Dorleac while his stage partner channels Catherine Denueve. Girod tries to explain and simplify using psychological short cut for simple cause and effect. While it also has its flaws, what Close Your Eyes and Hold Me understands better than Transfixed is that affairs of the heart are never simple.

Posted by peter at April 25, 2006 07:44 AM