To Die Like a Man
Tue Sep 22 2009
“Drag is over for me,” sighs Tonia (Fernando Santos), a legend of Lisbon’s transgender club scene who’s watching her wrecked body deteriorate. Given that this pre-op patient has suffered nearly two hours of high tragedy, our heroine is pretty much over everything involving this mortal coil. After the knockout punches of O Fantomas (2000) and Two Drifters (2005), Portuguese filmmaker Joo Pedro Rodrigues’s third excursion into existentialist free-falling is a bit of a letdown. Other than an intriguing preamble involving soldiers carousing in the bushes (one of whom will play a key part later on) and a showstopping sequence featuring Baby Dee’s “Up on Calvary,” there’s little to distinguish this melodrama from your run-of-the-mill handwringer. Rough-trade boyfriend shenanigans, familial crises, beaucoup transformation symbols and Warholian camp-vamping come and go without making much of a mark, and even Santos’s dedicated performance ends up fading into hand-over-forehead theatrics. Somebody has apparently been watching Fassbinder’s In a Year with 13 Moons on a constant loop. It may be time to press the stop button. Wednesday, Sept 30 at 9:15pm; Thursday, Oct 1 at 6pm—David Fear
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New York Film Festival 2009