“The Liberace of Sandusky” emerges from retirement for one last day in the sun – and one final night on stage – in a knock-out turn by Udo Kier.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2021
Once one of Ohio’s leading hairdressers, Pat Pitsenbarger’s glory days seem long behind him. That’s until a posthumous request from a former client spurs his escape from his rest home in a search for reconciliation, expired hair product and one last great party.
From Blood for Dracula to Bacurau (NZIFF 2019), Udo Kier has seared his way into the minds of cinephiles with decades of transgressive, menacing roles. But his first leading turn in 50 years defies expectations. Like Richard Farnsworth in The Straight Story or Harry Dean Stanton in Lucky (NZIFF 2018), Kier commands the screen in a role ‘based on a true icon’ and overwhelms our emotions as a character actor turned leading man, more fabulous than frightening, yet with eyes that carry a life of pain.
More than a star vehicle, this gently moving film is a testament to the gay men of the 20th century whose oft-hidden lives were the engine for social progress. Tenderly and lovingly rendered by Sandusky resident Todd Stephens – whose own coming-out was inspired by ‘Mr Pat’ – Swan Song is by turns a love letter, a history lesson and a reckoning with grief, all studded with moments of laughter and joy. — Doug Dillaman
“[A] tribute not only to the real-life Pat Pitsenbarger, but to the past generations of people like him who came out when it was unsafe to do so. The veteran actor Kier’s performance as a formerly fancy figure is brilliantly understated... In the end, Swan Song is about legacy. Not just how we will be remembered by others, but how we will remember ourselves.” — Brad Wheeler, The Globe and Mail