To Die Like a Man
(Morrer como un homem)

With João Rui Guerra da Mata
Director in Person
Screening on Film
$12 Special Event Tickets
Directed by João Pedro Rodrigues.
With Fernando Santos, Alexander David, Gonçalo Ferreira de Almeida.
Portugal, 2009, 35mm, color, 133 min.
Portuguese with English subtitles.

Rodrigues’ critically acclaimed new film opens with a cryptically paradigmatic scene superimposing two polar extremes of masculinity, with a platoon of soldiers on patrol stumbling upon an isolated house deep in a forest inhabited by two cross-dressing men. The unidentified gunshot that suddenly rings out triggers unnerving ellipsis that abruptly shifts the film to Lisbon and the life of a middle-aged transsexual who works as a cabaret performer. Carefully avoiding the tired clichés of the drag queen film, Rodrigues steers clear of the stage lights to instead focus on a life precariously balanced between the emotionally charged spaces of purported escape offered by the dressing room and the domestic realm, with a story of an aging transvestite who struggles to care for a wayward son and a self-destructive junkie boyfriend. A certain theatricality nevertheless exerts itself, animated by the film’s overbrimming soundtrack of popular songs that the characters sing to themselves and to each other in a radical, and occasionally Fassbinder-esque reinvention of the musical as an admixture of melodrama and tragedy.

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Drifting, Dreaming. The Nocturnal Cinema of João Pedro Rodrigues

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