IT MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS OF SWAN SONG!
LGBTQ+ cinema is rising this year and after a sweet and tender coming-of-age story with Potato Dreams of America, the SXSW Film Festival provides us with a truly heartfelt swan song about a legendary hairdresser that lives in a nursing home and is eager to leave it. When he hears the news that a longtime friend passed away, Pat goes on a trip through his hometown, and while finding the beauty products to tend its dead friend’s hair, he recalls some memorable people that left a mark in his life. Swan Song is a sweet and endearing look at a life lived to the fullest, with all its ups and downs, friendships and rivalries, dreams and romantic relationships.
Swan Song manages to deliver methodic actor Udo Kier the role of a lifetime, as he embodies a flamboyant hairdresser that is still pretty much adored by the community that he cared for during his life, although his arrogant posture left him with some friction with his apprentice Dee Dee Dale (played by Jennifer Coolidge). Pat is not yet ready to succumb to the form of dementia that is taking a toll on his behavior and health, and his journey is a homage that Todd Stephens brings to the veterans of the gay community. Even if it could have a more artistic design embodied in its images, Swan Song manages to touch the heart with its beautiful message and relies entirely on Kier’s performance to achieve its main goal. The film could be more reflective on the hardships of growing up in an old fashioned society, that toughened up the main character, therefore providing the teachings he has to offer to the younger members of the community he encounters during his trip around town, but ultimately all that is replaced with a comical tone that reinforces how Pat never wants to feel he is old enough to be the queen he is.
Swan Song is not a film that wants the audience to feel sorry for its lead character, but rather to see that his spirit is still pretty much alive and colorful as he faces his ultimate demise. In a somehow surprising and sweet tribute to David Lynch‘s The Straight Story, Swan Song creates the perfect environment that allows Kier to be spontaneous, gracious and colorful. The remaining characters, though, don’t have the same fortunate ending, as they are merely ornamental most of the times. However, this one-man-show paves the way for Stephens to never lose the audience’s attention and drift from its main purpose, which is witnessing the final moments of glory of a character that knows in his heart that he is reaching the end of his longlasting existence (and does it so without any sense of melodrama, which is definitely a plus). In part, this works, but Swan Song doesn’t have the artistic momentum it needed to be a more visually creative piece. Stephens has the heart at the right place, but the vision seems too simplistic to provoke an emotional reaction from the audience when the film reaches its climax.
Even if Swan Song doesn’t explore its many attributes, it is still a film that will mean something to many people. It’s a rendition of a legend that remains a legend to the very end and will not let his illness destroy the final moments of the glory he has maintained throughout his life. Udo Kier is outstanding in his role and it is certain that it will be one that will stick in the industry for many years to come.
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Title: Swan Song
Original Title: Swan Song
Director: Todd Stephens
Runtime: 105 min.
Trailer | Swan Song