Saturday, 18 December 2010

"The Greatest Disguise": On Cross-Dressing in Films, In Memory of Blake Edwards

James Garner and Julie Andrews in Victor Victoria (Blake Edwards, 1982). Read Véronique Fernández's article on this film: '"People Believe What They See": Clothing and Genders in Victor/Victoria', Lectora, 7, 2001
Police Inspector: You idiot! That's a man! 
Labisse: It can't be! 
Police Inspector: The person in that room was naked from the waist down, and if that was a woman, then she is wearing the greatest disguise I have ever seen! 
It's the day after the news emerged of the death of American screenwriter and director Blake Edwards at the grand age of 88, surrounded by his loved ones in a California hospital. David Hudson's customary gathering of links to tributes is a very good place to begin to find out, if you don't already know, about the warm esteem in which Edwards was held by critics and other filmmakers.
Today, Film Studies For Free presents its own little "cross-dressing-in-international-film"-links homage to its favourite Blake Edwards film, the cross-dressing comedy Victor Victoria. It may not be the queerest of queer films, certainly; it may not even be the queerest of Blake Edwards' queerish films... But it is one of the funniest, with plenty of treats for fans of Julie Andrews and James Garner. It thus stands as a fine testimony to Blake Edwards' gently subversive powers as a screenwriter and a director.

FSFF's author first saw this film, memorably, on its French repertory release in 1984, as a year-abroad student. Alone in a packed cinema, she had the doubly funny but also unsettling experience of laughing at the numerous verbal gags as they were delivered in English, and then waiting for the French audience to laugh as the subtitles unerringly delivered a belated punch, a curious case of comic différance.

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