Last Monday, I attended a screening of a new film, Woman’s Picture, at the Director’s Guild of America in Hollywood as the guest of a cast member, DC-based actress/singer/model Gia Mora. Mora’s popular jazz cabaret “Laugh it Up, Funny Girl” is currently playing at Germano’s Trattoria in Baltimore’s Little Italy.
After seeing the trailer for the film by writer/director Brian Pera (The Way I See Things) I knew the film was be an anthology inspired by classic women’s films of the thirties, forties, and fifties. I also knew the story was divided into three sections, each of which deals with its own specific female character.
What I didn’t know is that it was part of Los Angeles’ 29th Annual Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, called “Outfest,” which I only bring up because the festival’s mission of “fostering artistic expression of gender, sexuality and LGBTQ culture and its transformative social impact on the world” was achieved in the first section of Pera’s powerful film. The character “Ingrid,” is played by Calpernia Addams (“The Vagina Monologues,”) also known for her work in and for the transsexual community through Deep Stealth Productions. In Woman’s Picture, her character is a transwoman who visits the suburban Memphis home of her mother after ten years of estrangement. The last time she was there, Ingrid was a young man named Eddie.
The subtle nuances in the storytelling carried throughout the film into each of the three segments, offering thematic connections between these complex women whose immediate experiences seem very far removed from one another. Most notably, this was done using an unsuspected fourth element that was weaved throughout the stories – perfume – which became a character in and of itself.
“It’s tied to identity,” Pera said of perfume during a Q&A after the screening. “I had a fascination with my grandmothers and they were fascinated with perfumes and identities of women in films of the twenties, thirties, and forties too. This film is an homage to them.”
In fact, perfume was the glue that held all three distinct stories together, and without giving too much away for future filmgoers, it is the nostalgia of smell that brings peace, happiness, intrigue, and calm to the various characters at different times throughout the stories. At times, perfume paved the way for an altered reality or dream sequence that transports the audience into the heads of the characters. The subject matter is so important to Pera in fact, that he is currently working with perfumer Andy Tauer to create a fragrance line — Tableau de Parfums™ – based on the characters in the film.
What struck me most about the film was the captivating talent of the cast. Many of the films seen in theatres today are action-based and designed for our short attention-spanned culture. The quiet moments in Woman’s Picture, of which there are many, are anything but boring but solely reliant on the performances by Addams, and the two lead actors in the final two segments – Amy Lavere (Walk the Line) and Ann Magnuson (Making Mr. Right, Panic Room, “Anything But Love”).
One of the best moments in the film was during the second segment when Lavere (“Loretta”) breaks out into a dreamlike song sequence, the only black and white scene in the film that featured her own original music. Louisiana-born Lavere is known to play an upright bass and released her third album Stranger Me in July 2011. I so enjoyed her sound, I later downloaded the song used in the film, “Never Been Sadder,” from iTunes. Lavere was unable to make the screening due to her touring schedule.
Here’s a taste, courtesy of YouTube:
My host, Mora, was featured in the second segment of the film, playing a role that allows for the mystery and identity crisis through which Lavere’s character is navigating, as was Angela Dee, whose theatre credits include Leaves of Glass, King Lear, and Much Ado About Nothing. Magnusson, although making appearances throughout each segment, was the main focus in the third and final section of the film. Quiet subtlety fades into reactionary rage when her character can no longer remain quiet in her life. This again draws on the theme of identity about which writer/director Pera is so clearly passionate.
It’s rare that a film has an impact that leaves you thinking about the characters long after you see it, but this was one. Clearly a labor of love for Pera, he hopes to continue working with the same cast and characters for years to come, both on his website and in future films.
Lindsay Taub is an LA-based writer/editor who covers travel, lifestyle, culture, music/arts, food, wellness, and more. She calls Los Angeles home when she's there, but prefers to leave the city for the mountains and open spaces as often as possible. She loves cooking, gardening, live music, hiking with her three rescue dogs, and rustic luxury. Follow her on instagram/twitter @lindsaytaub and follow the Pacific Punch @ThePacificPunch or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more at www.lindsaytaub.com and www.voyagevixens.com .***