Saturday, March 29, 2014

BFI Flare: Who's Afraid of Vagina Wolf?

Who's Afraid of Vagina Wolf?
So far, this is hands-down the best thing I've viewed at the festival, and there are rumours afoot that director/star Anna Margarita Albelo will be bringing her vagina costume to the screening tonight, so it should be quite the event.

Part farce, part reflection on success and failure and part mid-life crisis drama, Vagina Wolf is a delightful melding of comedy and pathos, with Albelo at its heart. As struggling film director Anna arrives at her 40th birthday party, she realises she is at a crossroads: "I had sacrificed love for my career, and now I had neither." Dressed in the vagina costume in which she earns a crust as a performer in galleries, she is exposed and lonely. And her friends (including Guin Turner in marvellously bitchy form) are no help, either, egging her on to chat up women with whom she has nothing in common. She lives in a garage and dreams of making that breakthrough. Once she embarks on a lesbian reworking of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? in order to impress a young lady, she is on a collision course with herself, as her frailties and fears come to the surface.

What I love about this film is that Albelo, a seasoned comic actress, isn't afraid to make herself look ridiculous, as she spends much of the film hiding inside this costume. But, once on set, as Georgie, Anna is exposed emotionally, having to confront her worst fears, and the tone becomes quite serious. It isn't played for laughs. This character is going through hard times and we are not sure how she will emerge. It's very brave film-making. The film-within-a-film trope has been done many times, but here it really works. And the fact it may be autobiographical also has resonance.

Albelo's Hooters was a highlight for me of a previous festival, but here she really comes into her own as an actress and film-maker.

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