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Theatre, Music, etc.


June 1. 2012

Evenings Out

Stepping outside the boundaries

With the release of The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye, the concept of pandrogyny, a blending of sexes and the two members of a couple trying to become one another, came to the fore. The film has already been reviewed in these pages, but it shook out another movie that was released on DVD in late 2011, Open by Jake Yuzna.

Open is comprised of two storylines, very separate in terms of action but connected thematically, revolving around the central idea of opening oneself to new possibilities.

In the first storyline, Cynthia, a receptionist at a cosmetic surgery clinic, falls in with characters representing Genesis and Lady Jaye Breyer P-Orridge, the performance artists who sought throughout their marriage to blend themselves into a single person. Cynthia, who Yuzna describes as “hermaphroditic,” is fascinated by their devotion to one another, and falls inexorably in love with Genesis.

Yuzna does not really mean intersexed, by the way, as one would first think when reading that last sentence. Cynthia (Gaea Gaddy) is classically and mysteriously androgynous, encapsulating both male and female in one body. She is at once both difficult to describe as a character and completely entrancing.

In the other storyline, transman Syd (Morty Diamond) hooks up with artsy gay boy Nick (Daniel Luedtke) at a party, and the two head home for some hot sex. They then have to navigate their sexual relationship while also dealing with an increasing love and a not-quite-shocking turn of events in Syd’s life. Pseudo-spoiler: It happened on both The L Word and in real life.

So as Cynthia contemplates altering her body as her mentor has, Syd is faced with the betrayal of his already-altered body in a meandering, hazy dreamscape of shoegazing and introspection.

Open was the first American movie to win the Teddy Jury Prize at the Berlin Film Festival. There are several possibilities for how that came about. The first is that the jury doesn’t speak English, and thus didn’t notice the stilted acting that mars parts of the movie. More likely, though, is that the jury overlooked that and took the film as a whole. Either way, it’s an impressive achievement for Yuzna’s first feature film. As a side note, he is also the nephew of B-movie horror director Brian Yuzna, which has pretty much no relevance to this film except as an amusing aside. Six degrees of Jeffrey Combs--the elder Yuzna directed him in Bride of Re-Animator. Technically, that’s just two degrees of separation.

The acting can also be explained by pointing out that Yuzna actually used a pandrogynous couple, an intersexed person and a transman to play a pandrogynous couple, an intersexed person and a transman. This is not make-up; you can see Morty Diamond’s scars from the chest surgery when Syd and Nick have sex. Considering that half of Gus Van Sant’s career has been making use of nubile young amateurs, one can suppose that it is acceptable for Yuzna to give a bit of verité to his cinema.

Open is now available from Artiztical Entertainment.




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