Film review: Before the Last Curtain Falls is a captivating documentary

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Before the Final Curtain Falls.

Frank van Laecke and Alain Platel created a popular performance piece called “Gardenia”.  A movement and sound based show focusing on the lives of aging gay and transsexual performers, it toured for two years with over 200 performances in 25 countries.  As the duo were wrapping up the tour and heading back to their regular lives, documentary film maker Thomas Wallner asked if he could probe more indepth into their lives.

What follows are interviews with about a half dozen of the artists, intercut with scenes from the show. These men and women are fascinating; they have lived through much and there is such a joy and sadness in their survival. You applaud their audacity when suddenly one of them says in a moment of reflection “sometimes you need to erase things from your dreams”, it is crushing.

Wallner allows some heated exchanges to remain, including a scene when he is scolded for asking one trans performer their born name. She gets quite upset, and it would have been easy for Wallner to cut that particular interview.  Often in shows about artists we get promotional videos, but here we get some lovely raw truth that also educates.

Speaking of cuts though, the film does drag at times as its artists are often reflective, and while their lives are brilliantly interesting, it saps some of the momentum.

Despite its uneven pacing though, Before the Last Curtain Falls is a captivating documentary, about some wonderfully divine people.

Before the Last Curtain Falls (Bevor der letzte Vorhang fällt). Directed and written by Thomas Wallner. Sep 29 4:30pm Rio Theatre.  Visit http://viff.org for tickets and information.

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