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  Women in Revolt Rally Of The Dolls
Year: 1971
Director: Paul Morrissey
Stars: Candy Darling, Jackie Curtis, Holly Woodlawn, Jonathan Kramer, Michael Sklar, Maurice Breddell, Johnny Kemper, Martin Kove, Paul Kiln, Duncan McKenzie, Dusty Springs, George Abagnalo, Frank Cavestani, Prinidiville Ohio, Penny Arcade
Genre: Comedy, TrashBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Candy (Candy Darling) has been in a destructive sexual relationship with her brother for too long, she has concluded, and now wants to break it off so she can pursue her dreams of movie stardom to which she believes she has always been destined. Her two friends Jackie (Jackie Curtis) and Holly (Holly Woodlawn) have decided to improve their own lots in life, and to that end have formed a women's liberation group to further their interests, but the problem is the men in their lives who continue to be a drawback. Can this trio band together with other women and overcome the oppression in their lives to blossom as individuals, or are they doomed by the patriarchy to fail?

The big joke in this counterculture comedy was that the three leads were not women, but men, not a source of humour that has aged very well, to put it mildly, both for its portrayal of trans sexuality and its denigration of the women's emancipation movement. That this had three men who were at the forefront of trans representation who variously identified across a spectrum of sexuality in their heyday can render this a problematic watch for any audience trying to be right on, especially as they were willingly spoofing not only themselves but the whole notion of males identifying as females, for want of a better term, and in the process throwing up the issues that some feminists had with them.

The romance of women's suffering is a problematic area anyway, whether you make a mockery out of it or not, and when it was sent up by a coterie of Andy Warhol's team, who were often very gay-friendly if not so much female-friendly, well, the recipe was for a tiny budget movie assembled from improvised takes that appears clueless about what it was trying to say. Yet the fact this was a movie was significant, for where else was women's suffering romanticised more than in cinema, from Judy Garland, Lana Turner and Joan Crawford, among many others, glamorously dabbing away tears with their silk hankies to the directors like Douglas Sirk who made high class soap opera out of the material?

That was where much of the appreciation of camp was born, after all, and that essential artificiality built around some very deep, authentic emotions was very potent for certain groups of viewers. That sense of the fake tapping into a truth was all over Women in Revolt, but you had to select a particular truth to get on with it. As it was a comedy, of course it was going to be over the top, but the cast's constant yammering and trying to upstage one another was pretty wearing after a very short while, no matter that every so often it would get so ridiculous you would have to laugh almost despite yourself. As with plenty of Warhol projects, many of the participants did not live too long, often because of heroin use, though Darling - an example of a self-created icon if ever there was one - tragically succumbed to illness not long after this film was released.

Woodlawn, who said the gender he/she was depended on whether he/she was wearing a dress at the time, had genuine comedic ability, and might have been better as the focus (supposedly this was the original intention). They may not have been as glam as Candy, or as waspish as Jackie, but they were able to make you chuckle as, for example, wrestling with future Karate Kid villain Martin Kove (very naked) descends into the absurd, and it would have been good to hear them come up with more dialogue that wasn't drowned out by the others. Holly was also that rare Warhol acolyte to live to a fairly old age, unlike their co-stars (Curtis was a victim of heroin), yet remained a fringe character who really should have been paid more attention to, even just to hear their stories. So for that reason, Women in Revolt had worth, but as an examination of women's rights leaned far too uncomfortably on suppositions that gay and trans folks have a misogynistic streak, and not in a spoofy way either, alas.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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