Sunday, April 28, 2019

Variety (Bette Gordon 1983)

US 1983. PC: Channel Four Films / Variety Motion Pictures / Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen (ZDF). P: Renée Schafransky.
    D: Bette Gordon. SC: Bette Gordon (story), Kathy Acker (script), Jerry Delamater & Peter Koper (screenplay). Cin: Tom DiCillo, John Foster – 16 mm [not 35 mm as IMDb claims] – colour. Props: Elyse Goldberg. S: Helene Kaplan – mono. ED: Ila von Hasperg. P assistant: Christine Vachon.
    M: John Lurie.
Little Anthony & The Imperials: "The Diary" (Neil Sedaka, Johnny Greenfield, 1958).
    C: Sandy McLeod (Christine), Will Patton (Mark), Richard M. Davidson (Louie), Luis Guzmán (Jose), Nan Goldin (Nan).
    Loc: New York City (Tin Pan Alley, Times Square, Manhattan).
    Festival premiere: 10 Sep 1983 Toronto International Film Festival.
    General release date: 8 March 1985.
    Not released in Finland.
    100 min
    16 mm print from Arsenal (Berlin) viewed at Fifth Viva Erotica! festival, WHS Union, Helsinki, 28 April 2019

IMDb summary: "Christine (Sandy McLeod) takes a job selling tickets at a porno theater near Times Square. Instead of distancing herself from the dark and erotic nature of this milieu, she develops an obsession that begins to consume her life. Few films deal honestly with a female sexual point-of-view, controversial and highly personal, Variety does just this." – Anonymous.

AA: In March we screened Bonnie Sherr Klein's documentary Not a Love Story: A Film About Pornography (1981), and it was interesting to view now Bette Gordon's Variety made two years after. Both take a close look at pornography from a feministic point of view.

Unfortunately I had misremembered the hour of the screening and missed half of the show. I only saw the last 50 minutes of Variety but was able to register a number of impressions.

There is a documentary quality in the account of the pornographic milieu of Times Square in the early 1980s. Mainly lurid, depressive and demeaning but not without some genuine erotic charge.

Mostly, however, this is a tale of urban alienation and aberrations of desire. Bette Gordon introduces a feminist twist into Godardian modernism.

Between Permanent Vacation and Stranger Than Paradise John Lurie composed for Variety an engaging score with some gripping saxophone solos.

Tom DiCillo and John Foster caught the sleazy atmosphere of the Times Square porn hub in lush and vibrant colours. The vintage Arsenal print retains the heat and intensity of the colour. Olaf Möller praised the recent 35 mm blow-up but remained open to the possibility that this 16 mm print might be superior.

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