On its face, The Triple Echo could be seen as a straightforward WW2 drama involving a crossdressing soldier who is attempting to escape the horrors of service. However, after viewing it twice I have come to the conclusion that the film touches on more than mere situational crossdressing or forced feminization, but actually includes a portrayal of gender transition from two standpoints – that of the soldier, and of his lover. The film is reviewed in full at the link below, and part of a series of early transgender film reviews I’ve been working on.
My friend Eve Golden, an author, actress, and New York socialite who writes celebrity obituaries, has sent me information on the passing of transgender actress Holly Woodlawn, and I’ve added some bits from research I’ve done.
Holly Woodlawn died of cancer today (December 6) in Los Angeles. Born in Puerto Rico, Woodlawn hit New York in the 1960’s and soon fell in with the crowd of admirers and protégés surrounding artist Andy Warhol. She, Candy Darling, and Jackie Curtis were among the first openly transgender actresses in the New York stage and film world (and all of them were named in Lou Reed’s hit, “Walk on the Wild Side.” Woodlawn appeared in the films Trash and Women in Revolt, and in low-budget films such as Night Owl and Heaven Wants Out. She also had roles in the somewhat more well-known Billy’s Hollywood Screen Kiss and several cameo appearances on the award-winning Amazon series Transparent. In 1982, Holly was hired by the producers of Tootsie to coach Dustin Hoffman in his role. In recent years, Woodlawn worked in West Hollywood as a cabaret artist.
In 1991 she published a memoir titled A Low Life in High Heels, and in an interview in 2014 was quoted as saying “Aging is the best thing that could have happened to me…I have calmed down a gazillion compared to what I was younger. It is nice seeing all the kids around and thinking, ‘Oh God, if only they knew what is ahead of them!’ I hope they’re prepared! At least with me, it was never dull or boring.”
A somewhat odd controversy has erupted over the trailer for the film Zoolander 2. In the trailer, actor Benedict Cumberbatch plays a androgynous model named “All,” and in one brief scene from the trailer, the two stars question whether All is a “male or female model” and if All has “a hot dog or a bun.”
Several petitions have been started calling for a boycott of the film for mocking transgender, androgyne, and gender fluid individuals. While other petitions demand to know why a transgender, androgyne, or gender fluid individual was not cast in the campy role, as opposed to a cisgender actor. Just proving that some days, you simply cannot win.
Having viewed the trailer my strongest urge was neither to start nor sign a petition, but rather to consider watching Mad Max: Fury Road for the 9th time instead.
You can see the trailer at the link below
Shot on tricked out iPhone 5s’s along the streets of L.A., Sean Baker’s no-budget revenge odyssey ‘Tangerine’ is not only a staggering achievement, but a brilliant film.
The plight of transgender prostitutes is one I know very well, having served for a time on the board of directors of a charity which provided needed assistance to prostitutes on the streets of Kansas City, a very large number of which were transgender women of color. And there really isn’t anything positive at all about the conditions in which transgender prostitutes must work and live, the violence and degradation they endure, drug and alcohol addiction, the lack of basic services – let alone health care. In short, there really isn’t anything humorous at all about the world of sexual exploitation.
But art finds humor even where it seems impossibly irreverent. And so long as the characters are treated with respect and allowed their own dignity, even a portrayal of transgender prostitution could have artistic merit without being offensive.
Enter the indie film Tangerine, scripted by Sean Baker and Chris Bergoch and turning heads after a splash debut at the Sundance film festival. Set in the strip of Santa Monica Boulevard, a common venue for transgender prostitutes bordered by the trendy gay mecca of WeHo and the working-class ethnic enclaves of East Hollywood, the story of Tangerine revolves around Sin-Dee (Kitana “Kiki” Rodriguez) and her quest to punish her man (James Ransone) who was unfaithful with one of his cisgender prostitutes while she was serving a month in jail. This naturally sets Sin-Dee’s into a furious rampage across Hollywood one Christmas Eve, with her best friend, fellow prostitute Alexandra (Mya Taylor) accompanying her.
There is a preview of the film below; it is most definitely not work-safe, with a lot of profanity. What has many talking about Tangerine is not the subject matter, but the fact that the entire film was shot on a shoestring budget using three iPhone 5s smartphones. Yes, that’s right, filmed by smartphones.
There is more detail about the film at the two links below the YouTube video. It’s difficult to get a clear impression of the film from a 2-minute preview, I’m going to give the film a chance and see it or buy the DVD as soon as it is released. I confess that even though I tried not to, given the gravity of the overarching topic, I actually laughed out loud at the back-and-forth witty dialogue between Sin-Dee and Alexandra.
Caroline Cossey, who sometimes worked under the modeling name “Tula,” was born Barry Kenneth Cossey on 31 August 1954, in Brooke, Norfolk, England. After a very unhappy childhood filled with bullying over her obviously feminine appearance, she left school early and started a series of low-wage jobs. After learning the details about transgender life and possibilities from a friend who was a post-operative transsexual woman, Cossey started hormone therapy at 17 and later went on to complete her sex reassignment surgery (SRS) on New Year’s Eve, 1974.
Before her SRS she worked as a showgirl in a London nightclub, and after her final surgery she started circulating as a socialite and working as a model. She appeared in magazines such as the Australian Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, was a Page Three Girl for the Sun, and even played a part in a television game show. In 1981 she was cast as an extra in the 1981 James Bond film For Your Eyes Only, and posed for Playboy magazine’s June, 1981 issue. She later appeared in numerous print and television advertisements.
I have two very high-resolution images of Cossey which I have decided to post here in this timeline article linked below. The first is a lovely and famous advertisement for Smirnoff Vodka from 1980. The second is her sole photograph from the June 1981 Playboy magazine, which is somewhat difficult to find.
An essay from Playboy magazine, which overall is somewhat negative on Leto’s performance and the fact that no transwoman actress was chosen. I must say, at first blush the comments of Leto and Calpernia Addams sound reasonable:
“Do we need a molecular nano-biologist from Zaire to portray a molecular nano-biologist from Zaire?”
When applied on a general basis, this argument holds water, except in certain situations (it would be quite a stretch to have Drew Barrymore portray Memphis Minnie, for example). Unfortunately, due to the incredibly few transgender characters appearing in television, plays, and films, this general rule creates a chilling effect on the prospect of having any actual transgender actor or actress portray a transgender character. The same general arguments were used at one time to block Jews from portraying Jewish roles, and gays and lesbians from portraying those roles. So for now, we pretty much have Laverne Cox as the sole representative of a transperson portraying a trans character in a popular series. How unfortunate.
Tropfest is the world’s largest short film festival, and in this year’s contest the winner is a 7-minute short film by West Australian film maker Matt Hardie. The film, Bamboozled, is a “revenge sex” film where a gay cisgender man (Harry) pretends to be a transman who was once the girlfriend (Helen) of the protagonist, Pete. However, the entire thing is a set-up for a TV “gotcha” program, and thus the film portrays someone pretending to be a transsexual person for the purpose of tricking them into sex.
Setting off any alarm bells yet?
You can watch the entire film at the link below. I was not hugely offended by it, more just turned off. Nonetheless, it’s getting a lot of press and spurring a lot of commentary, and none of it is positive towards transgender persons.
This is somewhat old, being from October 2012, but Amanda Daniels shared it with me recently, and I found it touching, relevant, and timeless. Many of us know something of the story of how Larry Wachowski transitioned to Lana, but much of what we “know” is the result of hack-job pieces from years back, like one particularly bad piece Wired ran, which cast Lana as a sexual pervert who dressed for kinks as a BDSM submissive. There is a lengthy video at this link, but take some time, make some time, and give it a listen.
A great interview, including discussion of how transgender actress Laverne Cox worked with her twin brother to show pre-transition scenes.
It’s in Hebrew with English subtitles, and doesn’t appear to be playing anywhere near Kansas City, however. It might be available online.