Touching Film Centers on Gay Hairdresser Revisiting Ghosts of His Past

photo credit: rogerebert.com

American filmmaker Todd Stephens has completed his indie Ohio trilogy of movies with the release of his latest film “Swan Song.” His first two films in the trilogy – “Edge of Seventeen” and “Gypsy 83” – were released more than 20 years ago, and like “Swan Song” focus on his hometown of Sandusky. 

“Swan Song” written and directed by Stephens tells the fictionalized story of real-life retired hairdresser Pat Pitsenberger, played by Udo Kier in the movie. As reported by NBC News, “Pitsenberger escapes the confines of his grim, small-town nursing home after being tasked to style his ex-client Rita’s (Linda Evans) hair for her funeral. In the process of collecting beauty supplies across town, Pat, whose solitary existence in Sandusky is brought into focus as one of the last surviving gay men of his generation, begins to confront the ghosts of his past on his way to the funeral home.”

Stephens in his own words tells describes the movie as,

 “‘Swan Song’ is a love letter to the rapidly disappearing ‘gay culture’ of America,” As it has become more acceptable to be queer, what used to be a thriving community is rapidly melting back into society … ‘Swan Song’ is dedicated to all the forgotten flaming florists and hairdressers who built the community and blazed the trail for the rights many of us cling to today. But, above all, for me this film is about learning that it’s never too late to live again.”

Stephens also found it important to focus on an older member of the queer community, as both of the earlier films centered on younger members. As he told NBC News,

 “I like to call it like a post-gay film or post-coming-out film. Being gay is not the conflict; the conflict is getting old, the conflict is losing your love for what you love to do, losing your purpose.”

The older storyline also gave Stephens the opportunity to “pay homage and tribute” to the countless gay men whose lives were cut short due to the AIDS epidemic. Stephens himself lived through the 1980s and the devastating impact HIV/AIDS had on the queer community. He remembers,

 “I came from a little small town, and the plague hit my town. Half a generation of gay men died. Just think of all the songs that were never written and all the paintings that were never painted, and just how that changed the world, and what a huge loss it was.”

“Swan Song” is a return to his roots and hometown of Sandusky, which like many of us stirs up mixed feelings, 

I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with my hometown, as I’m sure many of us have over the years, but I’ve begun to feel myself drawn back. The town itself was kind of like a rust belt, industrial Midwestern town. Pretty much all the factories have closed, so it’s been pretty down and out. But in recent years, it’s really coming back to life, and that actually inspired me to tell this story about a man that was down and out and was coming back to life.”  

“Swan Song” brings Stephens back to his roots and his hometown, which he explained recently in an NBC news video interview,

“I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with my hometown, as I’m sure many of us have over the years, but I’ve begun to feel myself drawn back. The town itself was kind of like a rust belt, industrial Midwestern town. Pretty much all the factories have closed, so it’s been pretty down and out. But in recent years, it’s really coming back to life, and that actually inspired me to tell this story about a man that was down and out and was coming back to life.”  

“Swan Song” was filmed in 18 days after being in production for over a year. Also starring in the film are Michael Urie, Jennifer Coolidge, and Linda Evans. Reviews for the movie have been glowing with many critics giving the film rave reviews. It currently has a 91% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. “Swan Song” is available on-demand in addition to playing in select theaters nationwide.

Check out the trailer below –


Sources: NBC News

 

 

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