The Transformer
by Sally Berger
Sep 11, 2012 | 957 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Telluride favorite Sally Potter, whose films Yes (2004) and The Tango Lesson (1997) screened at the festival, returns with her latest. Set in London in 1962, it follows two inseparable teenage girls whose deep conversations are overshadowed by Cold War paranoia and the arrival of the sexual revolution. The cast includes Elle Fanning, Alessandro Nivola, Christina Hendricks, Timothy Spall, Oliver Platt and Annette Bening.

British director Sally Potter (b. 1949) is possessed of a distinct, independent vision. From the early 1970s to the present, she has kept her radical edge, beginning with avant-garde short films, before moving on to experimental dramatic features that incorporate music, literature, dance, theater and performance. Potter, who typically works on multiple elements of her films, from script and direction to sound design, editing, performance and production, elegantly blends poetry and politics, giving voice to women’s stories and romantic liaisons and exploring themes of desire and passion, self-expression and the role of the individual in society.

Her earliest short films, which explored film technique, performance and dance, incorporated experiments with ideas of “expanded cinema,” including projected films, split screens and live performance. Her low-budget short Thriller (1979), which reverses Mimi’s tragic death in La Bohème, achieved international cult status as a feminist critique of the romantic drama. Thriller was followed by her first feature, The Gold Diggers (1983), a hybrid drama set in a surrealist landscape and starring Julie Christie, which further explored female stereotypes in Hollywood narratives.

Her most critically acclaimed film, Orlando (1992), based on Virginia Woolf’s novel of the same name, features Tilda Swinton as a 16-year-old boy who, over four centuries and various escapades, becomes a woman. Potter’s most recent film, Rage (2009), which is shaped around 14 direct-address interviews into a cell phone, continues her groundbreaking forays into experimental narrative.

Considered together, these films reveal a common thread of transformation woven throughout Potter’s work—both in her characters’ journeys and in terms of her own ability to transcend genre and work with cutting-edge film forms.  

© The Museum of Modern Art. Reprinted with permission.


England, 2012, 89m

Director: Sally Potter

Starring: Elle Fanning, Alessandro Nivola, Christina Hendricks, Timothy Spall, Oliver Platt and Annette Bening

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