Some overdue dvd reviews.
What a glorious movie this is! According to the interview material on the dvd it was made on a shoestring and enthusiasm, those famous costumes literally being held together with string and sticky tape. It has gone on to be something of a classic. Apparently after 9/11 they pulled some apocalyptic movie or other that had been scheduled across the USA that night and replaced it with Priscilla. Good one! The movie is very much about acceptance. It is also a total hoot.
Go back about four years before Priscilla was made and you may have found me in the Imperial Hotel in Erskineville from time to time. That is where some of the movie was shot. The shows there were pretty damn good in those days.
Curiously, and nothing to do with me, one of my HSC coachees has selected Priscilla as one of his supplementary texts for Journeys in English Paper 1.
Spinning off from Shakespeare’s Henry IV, this movie by Gus Van Sant (1991) I first saw with M some time close to its first release. “In 2005, the film was cleaned and remastered by the Criterion Collection. It was released on a 2-disc DVD set. The second disc features new interviews, outtakes and more information about the movie.” One can’t help reflecting, of course, on the sad fate not long after the movie was made of River Phoenix. This is a seriously good movie, beautifully filmed. Its strengths grow as one watches it again — and it deserves many viewings — but one can’t help noticing some flaws as well. The ending is very Shakespeare.
Surry Hills Library supplied me with this 1993 television mini-series based on the first of the Tales of the City series of novels by Armistead Maupin, who was in Australia (see that interview) recently — Adrian Phoon met him.
A couple of nights to see it all, but it is still so delightful, and so well-made. I really think it better than some of the things like Queer as Folk that came after. The script is just so clever! Olympia Dukakis is just brilliant as Mrs Madrigal.
FENELLA KERNEBONE: It was famously made into this series in 1994. Olympia Dukakis – fabulous – Laura Linney, in that series as well. It had a bit of an interesting reception at the time in some parts of the United States. What was the reaction that it originally got?
ARMISTEAD MAUPIN: It was condemned by three state legislatures, officially condemned by the legislatures. It’s amazing for anybody who’s seen the series. It’s truly a sweet little story. But we had a couple of guys kissing each other in a convertible in one scene, and that was punishable by death in several southern states. There was a bomb threat in Chattanooga Tennessee. Oklahoma, South Carolina and Georgia all condemned it and all tried to take money away from public television for airing it. It was an event, it was a major event. The ratings in San Francisco were higher on public television that night than they were for any of the networks. That’s the first time in history that it ever happened. And someone… (Laughs) I remember a gay friend of mine said, “You even emptied the bathhouses that night.” There was no-one in the bars or the bathhouses the night it appeared on television.
FENELLA KERNEBONE: Is that because it was a really accurate description of what San Francisco was like, or simply because it did have stuff that hadn’t been seen on the television before?
ARMISTEAD MAUPIN: There was a certain residual affection for the series from San Franciscans because it had appeared in the newspaper. But it was just a chance for people to see their own lives reflected, and not just the gay people. Just people who lived in San Francisco and loved it for its freewheeling bohemian…feeling. They saw themselves. The people who saw themselves as Mona or Mary Ann, even, the wide-eyed girl and new girl in town All of that made for fairly widespread appeal, at least in San Francisco.
FENELLA KERNEBONE: Did you enjoy those little cameos that appeared?
ARMISTEAD MAUPIN: I loved those. (Laughs) I’m a terrible actor. So we had to keep it really simple. I’m typing in the…original series in one of the windows. But, yeah, I did like it.
FENELLA KERNEBONE: It’s interesting when you compare it to TV shows that we see today because there are entire shows that feature gay characters or there’s a gay offsider, or even shows that are just dedicated to gay characters – ‘The L Word’, ‘Will and Grace’. What do you think about those programs?
ARMISTEAD MAUPIN: Oh, I’m happy that they’re there, delighted they’re there, and I enjoy them myself, and I’m really happy to have… I think I helped pave the way, or, at least, the people who made ‘Tales of the City’ helped pave the way for those shows to happen. It showed that it was possible, that it wasn’t this huge dark scandalous thing that had to be avoided at any cost. These are just people living their lives and that they interact with the rest of the world and that straight women and gay men have a very special bond – the thing that’s celebrated in ‘Will & Grace’. All of it – I’m very proud of the… I think it actually influenced ‘Sex in the City’ to a certain degree.