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Mark Rappaport (#110 of 14)

Art of the Real 2015 The Royal Road, Becoming Anita Ekberg, & More

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Art of the Real 2015: The Royal Road, The Vanity Tables of Douglas Sirk, & Becoming Anita Ekberg

Film Society of Lincoln Center

Art of the Real 2015: The Royal Road, The Vanity Tables of Douglas Sirk, & Becoming Anita Ekberg

It was no less than Hollywood—the set, the actors, the inexhaustible flair of it all—that offered, as a female voice on The Royal Road’s soundtrack insists, “a gender-disphoric tomboy” from the Midwest, a “cherished relief from the awkward realities of daily life.” Composed of static shots of the beautiful San Francisco landscape and laced with steadfast commentary, so steady you’d believe the film was edited with the help of a metronome on andante, Jenni Olson’s film makes no secret of the filmmaker’s lifelong infatuation with Hollywood and the ways in which its romantic plotlines have paralleled her own Proustian proportions of desire for lesbian companionship. Watching The Children’s Hour on TV one night, Olson recalls Shirley MacLaine’s coming-out speech and how “it perfectly expressed my childhood experience of simultaneously knowing and not knowing that I was queer.” Hollywood, then, is a fitting starting point for a film that sets out to provide “a defense of nostalgia.” Olson, the off-screen narrator, frequently shifts back and forth between remembering her unconsummated desires and failed relationships (“I’m utterly infatuated, and the ring on her finger marks her as clearly unavailable,” she says at one point) and California’s sordid, colonial past. Hollywood, San Francisco, Spanish colonialism, Hitchcock’s Vertigo, and unrequited love are the specific themes through which Olson strives to not only contextualize her own life, but to offer a mode of remembering that can be both nostalgic and critical.