What to Watch: Swan Song
In his latest film – Swan Song – filmmaker Todd Stephens draws on his experience of growing up in the small town of Sandusky, Ohio.
The story revolves around the character of Pat Pitsenbarger. Based on a flamboyant hairdresser from Stephens’ childhood in Sandusky, the Pat we see in this story is a man in his final years who lives in a nursing home.
When he’s notified that a former client’s dying wish was for him to style her hair for her funeral, Pat embarks on an odyssey across town – confronting the ghosts of his past in the process.
Stephens has written that he intended the film as an ode to a generation of gay men who came before us. It’s a story told with a lot of affection, carefully balancing melancholy with a wry, knowing humour.
The central role of Pat is played by Udo Kier.
Udo Kier is the quintessential art-house scene-stealing character actor, but the role of Pat puts him front and centre in Swan Song – he’s pretty much the focus of every scene – and it’s a fascinating portrait study.
The cast of the film is one of its strengths. As well as Udo Kier, we’re treated to small but impactful performances from Jennifer Coolidge, Linda Evans, Michael Urie, and Jonah Blechman.
There’s an underlying sadness to this film. The pain of lost love, the hurt of old wounds unhealed, and the displacement felt as time moves on and the world evolves. But, ultimately, this is a loving tribute to gay men and the journeys that we’re all undertaking.