There has been a rise in the number of LGBTQ+ stories being told in movies and TV, but generally they have been about younger characters coming of age in the modern world. New comedy-drama Swan Song puts the spotlight on a different age bracket, crafting a small tale with a lot of heart.
Udo Kier plays Pat Pitsenbarger, a former hairdresser and drag performer now staring into the abyss in a nursing home. After hearing that a former client (Linda Evans) has died, he escapes the facility and makes the long journey across town to prepare her hair for the funeral. On the way, he meets old friends and new, in order to get the supplies he needs and confront a painful past.
There are a thousand independent films about a long trip to say goodbye, and even more about wacky nursing home breakouts. However, by making Todd Stephens’ film a character study, those weaknesses begin to fade. Kier is as absolute delight, bringing mischief and mayhem to a bemused community whose residents have forgotten him or thought he was dead. That doesn’t matter to Pat, who relishes the chance to relive his glory days even though he’s aware it’s only temporary.
Whether he’s demanding Caucasian hair products from a bemused black hairdresser, or strutting his stuff in front of a delighted gay bar crowd, he’s making the most of every moment. The same can be said for Kier, who has appeared in over 200 films (everything from Dogville to Barb Wire) but hasn’t had a lead role for over five decades. There’s also a bittersweet edge not often seen in the youth-focused Queer Cinema, as the scars of the AIDS crisis weigh down on him as he reflects on the friends lost to ignorance.
Swan Song may be slight compared the many complex roles in Keir’s filmography, but such a powerful performance deserves to be seen by as big an audience as possible this Pride Month.
Swan Song is in cinemas from 10th June.