The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994)

<strong class="MovieTitle">The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert</strong> (1994)

(On DVD, August 2010) I realize that I’m fifteen years behind the rest of the world in (finally) seeing this charming Australian comedy, but then again you would be horrified at some of the other curious omissions in my personal film-viewing record.  Suffice to say that hindsight has advantages of its own: It’s hard to see The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert now without spotting Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce and Terence Stamp in fearless performances that are remarkably different from the kind of roles for which they have become best known.  (Go ahead; make a joke about Agent Smith in drag: “Mis-ter An-der-son, you look… fabulous”.)  The film itself has aged remarkably well: While social attitudes toward queer issues represented in this film have hopefully evolved, the exuberant quality of the characters does a lot to bring audiences into their colourful reality.  By the end, the film reaches a quasi-idyllic acceptance that acts as inspiration.  But social issues aren’t the reason why the film has become such a self-confident camp classic: You just have to look at the astonishing visuals of a scene in which a bus drives across the desert featuring a rooftop performance by a drag queen draped in long billowing silver drapes to realize how awe-inspiring this film can be.  The Australian outback makes for a spectacular background, and the script deftly moves between emotional tones without losing track of its goals.  It’s all very impressive, and you don’t have to be interested in LGBT issues to appreciate the cinematography, the script or the fun of the bus ride.

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