It will be an insider's laser vision of a narrow slice of privilege, and it will make our skins crawl. (Barcelona) They set a table in the desert with cloth, fruit loops and hormone pills. (The Adventures of Priscilla...)


A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.

"Barcelona" and "The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert" are slice-of-life movies about two American sub-cultures: rich young American socialites and impoverished transvestites. If one of these subjects appeals to you, rest assured that both films are made with style.

Whit Stillman's feel for his subject oozes from his pores. He has written and directed "Metropolitan" and now "Barcelona" with the cerebral word games that are the emotional currency of a small pocket of Ivy Leaguers for whom college is the step between home and travel abroad, the way station that supplies the tools of the trade.

Their natural habitat is the nightclub, where they discuss sexual attraction and culture in torrents of literate English. They verbalize and analyze and think intensely about women and literary subtexts. They are privileged Americans in blue oxford and gray worsted who have the leisure to explore other countries in the process of becoming cosmopolitan through immersion.

Ted (Taylor Nichols), an American sales rep, is exploring the world of Barcelona's beautiful, young business trade fair girls when his self-absorbed cousin Fred (Chris Eigeman), a naval patriot, arrives for an extended visit. Fred fumes at the rampant anti-Americanism, while Ted improves himself by reading the Bible as he dances to Glenn Miller. They have graduated from the Park Avenue ballrooms of "Metropolitan" to life's next step: the international mating dance. They are experts at partying and verbalizing the surface concepts of the philosophic conversions that infuse the society they will inhabit.

Whit Stillman is a consummate interpreter of his world. We can anticipate with awful pleasure his next movie, in which his characters will be middle-aged socialites trained in the acquisition and protection of assets and women. It will be an insider's laser vision of a narrow slice of privilege, and it will make our skins crawl.

"The Adventures of Priscilla" is a tale of longing to be loved in a way that society refuses to sanction. Outcasts often reach for bravado, and what bravado this is. Writer/Director Stephan Elliott has coaxed daring performances from Hugo Weaving as Mitzi, Guy Pearce as Felicia and Terence Stamp as Bernadette-- three drag queens who bring their act across the barrens of Australia to the northern territories on a bus they transform into a fanciful, rolling home.

They speed along talking about drugs, clothes and sex organs; they recline in gold lame with cooling cucumber eye patches, and when they stop, they disembark for a stroll down Main Street in turquoise wigs, lace and feathers. Climbing a mountain in net stockings and strapless dresses, they dance in the wind on a cliff. They set a table in the dessert with cloth, fruit loops and hormone pills.

The preppies of "Barcelona" and the transvestites of "Priscilla" are all lonely men who cover it up with the clothes of their cultures and the acquired chatter of self-protection. Take your pick of two stylish films on subjects of limited appeal.

Film Critic: JOAN ELLIS
Word Count:
Studios: Fine Line Features & Grammercy Pictures
Rating: PG-13 & R 1h40m & 1h42m

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