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  Variety A Woman In Sleaze
Year: 1983
Director: Bette Gordon
Stars: Sandy McLeod, Will Patton, Richard M. Davidson, Luis Guzmán, Nan Goldin, Lee Tucker, Peter Rizzo, Mark Boone Junior, April Andres, Suzanne Fletcher, Peyton Green, Cookie Mueller, Norma Angelica Rodriguez, Sally Rodwell, Scotty Snyder, Spalding Gray
Genre: Drama, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Christine (Sandy McLeod) is a writer who is having trouble making ends meet with her chosen profession, so has decided to get a job in a New York City porn cinema, selling tickets from the booth at the front to the exclusively male clientele. This gives her an opportunity to observe men which may be useful for her writing, but the long days are more likely to breed boredom, and they all give off a sleazy vibe except Jose (Luis Guzmán) who works with her and promises to look out for her should anyone start hassling her. But there is one man who intrigues her more than the others, a middle-aged, well dressed gentleman who seems to have some wealth behind him, yet attends this low rent establishment - and is taking an interest in Christine.

Variety was the fruit of a collaboration between two radicals that must have had their fellow counterculture fans salivating, as it was written by feminist pioneer Kathy Acker and directed by equally feminist talent Bette Gordon, so why has it been forgotten for the most part ever since? For a start, it was never the most famous of movies in the first place, so was not about to build a huge audience, yet as an indie of the nineteen-eighties it was representative of an earlier time that did not translate so well as the years progressed. What it did provide was a close look at the sex district of New York, and for that reason it has been occasionally revived as a document of what used to be before the area was improved and gentrified a decade or so later.

Therefore if you had any interest at all in those downbeat, down and heel eras that were about to be swept aside then Variety was something special even if as a story it dragged significantly, with Christine finding her purpose in life by close proximity to horny and rather pathetic men. There was a curious, neo-noir quality to this the further it went on, with the protagonist seemingly about to get together with the well-dressed man, Louie (Richard M. Davidson) as he invites her to a ball game one evening, an offer she accepts with bemusement. When he is called away abruptly, she senses adventure and begins to follow him, possibly discovering he is involved with organised crime, something else which arouses her libido as well as her fantasies of being a private detective of sorts, or at least an amateur sleuth. However, there was a suspicion this was not really headed anywhere, and the journey was the most important aspect.

Every so often Christine met up with her boyfriend (Will Patton) who is interested enough in her investigation to tolerate her sudden lapses into pornographic monologues where she expounds on such subjects as a woman having sex with a tiger in graphic detail. Mind you, when she starts going off on these reveries, he does tend to abandon her in a state of disquiet, as if the film was acknowledging that sexual fantasies - porn, in fact - are acceptable if it's aimed at a man, but when women start making up their own versions then it's regarded as not only unacceptable, but actively frightening. This was all very well, but it was framed in scenes that either went on too long, or meandered far too much without getting to a satisfying point, so while there was plenty to engage amateur historians of NYC of yore's less salubrious regions, everyone else may well have their patience tested, and McLeod (an associate of Jonathan Demme) was a little too trancelike in demeanour to be engaging. If it had a niche audience back then, imagine what that audience will be now. Music by John Lurie.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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