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Swan Song


Stars: Udo Kier, Jennifer Coolidge, Ira Hawkins, Linda Evans, Michael Urie

Director: Todd Stephens

Very elegiac and rather good, Stephens' film follows the dying days of Patrick Pitzenbarger (Kier giving an understated but virtuoso turn as this real-life character), once the queen of hairdressers as well as a cabaret act at the local gay bar, who now finds himself, though not quite 70, in an arid nursing home where his only pleasure is the cigarillos he constantly contrives to hide.

Receiving a rare visitor, he's informed that a local society matron, once the most prestigious client in his salon, has died, and requested him to 'do' her hair in the coffin for the queenly sum of 25,000 dollars.

Sneaking out of the home, Pat heads on foot for the township of Sandusky (actually the director's own home town) where he meets the owner of a dress shop, whose hair he once fashioned. So impressed is she that he remembers her name that she donates him a pale blue suit that almost restores him to his former glory.

But, while he 'encounters' people from the past who are now dead, Pat discovers that his beloved bar is on the verge of closing. Tonight is its last hurrah...

Nearly all the characters in the film are gay, save the nursing home staff, and Evans, as the 'corpse' the dying Pat must restore to glowing beauty. After listing all her follies, failures and bad characteristics, he informs anyone who'll listen that 'I adored her'.

Though the film does take its own sweet time, Kier's subtle and sympathetic central performance carries the show.

David Quinlan

USA 2021. UK Distributor: Peccadillo Pictures (BFI). Colour by AbelCine.
105 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 06 Jun 2022