Sunday, 25 January 2009

Piper Perabo, Lena Headey & Daniela Sea

Do these three have anything in common?

They did all feature (to a greater or lesser degree) in my creative consumption of the day - watching Imagine Me & You, and Shortbus. Sadly, despite sitting through the whole of the rather clunky Imagine... just to get a taste of sapphic love (unconsummated of course), it turns out that neither of the actresses Piper Perabo or Lena Headey are officially gay 'in real life' - it always feels more gratifying or basically not such a let down when they are. Apparently Lena Headey is now married to a man after being in a 9-year relationship with another. She does have tats, but then again so does Angelina. There is however a whole sentence in the personal section of Piper's wikipedia entry noting their 'close friendship' - seems a strange thing to mention if it doesn't mean anything more? And for me, I'd find it a hell of a lot harder to get it on on camera with my female best friend (playing my lesbian lover), than with a complete stranger, unless it wasn't just a friendship....

Either way, the film didn't really work I thought - the stereotypes of the neurotic english upperclasses that seemed painfully funny in Four Weddings and a Funeral all those years ago now just seem painful. And I find it hard to feel any sympathy for people who are so obviously privileged that everything seems to fall into their lap - you don't worry for them when it all starts to go wrong as you know they'll be back on their feet - as is borne out by the film's ending. However it does have a happy ending for the girls of sorts, although a filmic depiction of happy married lesbian life is yet to be seen.

My main issue with the film's central premise - beautiful young just-married bride falls in love at first sight with her equally beautiful wedding florist, then agonises about whether to follow her heart or her loyalty - is really about just how beautiful the two women are...and how similar they look! I guess it was a trade-off - beautiful actresses can be a bit of eye-candy (for the boys too) as well as pushing forward the storyline - but in the end it got in the way for me. I'm so tired of that simpering childlike femininity as so often portrayed by Keira Knightley (who looks remarkably similar to Piper) and that jaw-dropping fragile prettiness that I've personally never seen on the streets of London. Even in Primrose Hill. But then add to that the fact that the two female protagonists looked almost identical with their wide mouths, perfect teeth, hair & bodies - is lesbian love really about f*cking your double? (ie. yourself...) The best man's speeches about shagging etc only seemed believable if you replaced every reference to 'women' with 'men' - he would have made a beautiful if egotistical (in this case) gay man about town. And as always, the words of wisdom were left to come out of the mouth of a 9-year old girl, who was about the only one who made sense in this whole thing. But for a chance to see Lena Headey in a clinch, I'm sorry to say I'd watch it again.

Shortbus is a whole different affair. I knew that when I saw it at work a few years ago that I had been struck with how wonderful it was, but I forgot why. Watching it this time, I was blown away by its artistry, bravery, unabashed glory & tenderness. The stories weave in and out of love, not-love, domination, repression, abuse, sexual pleasure, performance, joy, death. Depiction of naked rocking bodies is splashed all over the place in a way that quickly turns it into something commonplace, not voyeuristic. The heartbreaking way that a story of childhood abuse is shared from one lover to another is done so kindly, so subtly, yet so telling. And the way that one man's obsession saves another's life in more ways than one, and that this act of lifesaving in turn resuscitates his own.

And of course, there is the 'pussy parlour' which was originally the most memorable part for me, a heavily draped closeted room, separate from everyone else where women - led by Bitch and Little Prince (Daniela Sea) - sit around and talk the world into its correct dynamics. I guess I wish that room really did exist, or that I could find it. The stories of abuse touched me hard. And yet the film actually shows there could be a pathway through it for some, even if it is near-death. For the repressed woman, the final scene shows her getting down with the most beautiful, sexually-free-seeming couple - almost an Eve & Adam before they were kicked out of the story line. If that's sexual liberation, then I guess that IS what I want.

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