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Swan Song


‘…you don’t have to be gay to like it, you just have to be in touch with your fabulous side….’

What do you mean you’ve never heard of Udo Kier? You’ll know the face, through; Kier is something of a legend, having appeared in films as truly diverse as Suspiria, Breaking the Waves, Johnny Mnemonic, Ace Ventura Pet Detective, The Story of O and Brawl in Cell Block 99, as well as being a regular muse for major cultural figures like Andy Warhol and Lars Von Trier. A career like that deserves a monumental Swan Song, and that’s exactly what writer/director Todd Stephens provides here.

Kier plays Pat Pitsenbarger, a gay roué who finds himself in an old folks home in Sandusky Ohio. He busts out with a purpose; he’s been asked to do the hair and make-up for a prominent Republican society-wife, played by Linda Evans. The only catch is, she’s dead; Pat’s job is to make her look as good as she can for an open casket funeral. Smoking like a chimney and sporting several diverse outfits, Pat’s journey is a Straight Story last hurrah, building slowly from small victories to a bitter-sweet but upbeat finale.

Swan Song doesn’t quite have the non-stop party mood that the trailer suggests in a Priscilla Queen of the Desert style. Pat is dying, and the world around him has changed, as several torch songs like Dusty Springfield’s Yesterday When I Was Young on the soundtrack attest. But Stephens works closely to Kier’s wonderfully louche persona, with tart encounters with a local beautician (a game Jennifer Coolidge) ramping up the drama, and poignant use of songs like Melissa Manchester’s Don’t Cry Out Loud. And don’t think you’ll be spared a little Shirley Bassey and Judy Garland to boot…

Such needle-drops suggest Swan Song may well play to an LGBTQ+ gallery, but if Swan Song passes muster as a camp classic, it’s one that expands its reach and finds a niche in the mainstream. It’s not exactly Death in Venice when the hero hits a drag club to Robyn’s propulsive anthem Dancing on My Own, and as for his electrifying costume; it’s the hands-down best look since Catherine O’Hara’s wedding outfit in Schitt’s Creek. Swan Song is a funny, warm-hearted film that showcases Kier’s remarkable talent and charisma; you don’t have to be gay to like it, you just have to be in touch with your fabulous side.

Thanks to Peccadillo Pictures for access. UK DVD/ BLU-RAY AND VOD RELEASE:  29 AUG 2022

DVD/ blu-ray extras include The Real Pat Pitsenbarger Featurette;  Casting Featurette;  In Conversation with Writer/ Director Todd Stephens and Udo Kier; Audio Commentary with Todd Stephens, Udo Kier and Producers Eric Eisenbrey & Tim Kaltenecker;   Udo Kier Iris Prize Acceptance Speech;  UK Theatrical Trailer


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  1. Is this a spin off of original, not insipid redo, of La Cage aux Fall? Fabulous song selection and now we know what happened to Dynasty’s Linda Evans… Thanks!

    • Yup, that soundtrack really sugar-coats the darker moments. And Linda Evans looks pretty good in the ‘ghost’ scenes. It did remind me of Birdcage, and Priscilla, all good reference points for a film like this.

    • What if nobody wants to touch it? Do you have Udo Kier’s face? He might be wanting it back.

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