Author: Christian Whitworth

What does one make of a film whose construction is so tinged with the reminder of its near erasure? At once an incomplete balance of filmic orthodoxies and a political retention of Polish re-Stalinization, Andrzej Zulawski’s On the Silver Globe (Na srebrnym globie) faced the prohibition of its own production when, in 1977, the Polish director was confronted by an opposing political ideology that ceased funding, blocked filming, and attempted to destroy costumes, materials, and the film itself. But fragments survived—of the film and of Zulawski’s desire to complete it. He reconstructed On the Silver Globe, filling its gaps with commentary and footage rooted in the harsh realities of 1980s Poland. These bits contrast with the fantastical, fictionalized landscape of the film’s telling, but they differ to both social and political ends. Here, erasure allows for a film troubling yet compelling, achieving its wild ambition across history and screen.

THE ADVENTURES OF PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT (1994) has garnered a reputation for its campy humor and irresistible musical numbers. Situated as an achievement within queer cinema for bringing drag culture to the popular moviegoer, the film has been consistently revived as a musical adaptation since 2006. PRISCILLA’s ostentatious appeal was even awarded an Academy Award for best costume design in 1995, a title that comes as no surprise given the intricate and wild cabaret costumes, which range from flip-flops to lizards. Apart from the immediate allure, however, the film’s narrative functions as subtly political intrigue. Positioned within a unique era of Australian cinema, in which conventional notions of masculinity are tested, PRISCILLA incorporates aspects and furthers previous traditions of subversive filmmaking. The film itself is explicit in its critique, often to the dismay of women and minorities. Even in the face of such insecurities, however, PRISCILLA entertains.

It’s a strange world; or rather, it’s a strange neighborhood in David Lynch’s Blue Velvet (1986). Lynch’s microcosm, in which a small town carries the horror of a maniacal detective story, acts paradigmatically to disclose the psychosexual turmoil of the human mind. The opening scene posits a white picket fence, saturated roses, a gleeful fireman, and a fatherly figure watering the garden. It’s the American dream in its cinematic realization. Yet in typical Lynch fashion, this idyllic scene is threatened by a freak accident. The man watering the garden collapses to the ground and the camera descends to his level, submerging the viewer in the grass, where bugs squirm as an assertion of the ensuing uneasiness.

A man rides in from the cold, looking to make a fresh start in a tiny town. He brings with him a willingness to throw the dice and a big rep. He’s a gunslinger, someone to be respected, or so the story goes. Soon he’s a bigshot with a woman he loves and a mini-empire coveted by a company and its hired guns. It may sound familiar because it’s a jumble of plot elements from countless westerns, but this is Robert Altman, and it’s going to go down differently.