Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Rome at the end of summer, at the end of the tourist season, with half the inhabitants away.  Narrow streets give way to empty piazzas, opening suddenly onto the big attractions –the Coliseum, the Parthenon, surrounded by the last of the shutterbug crowds.  The leaves on the broad avenues are parched around the edges and fall in the warm, traffic-scented breeze. The light has the quality of those romantic paintings that end up on cheap, classic paperbacks – the ones that spoke of ‘culture” to me as an NC kid.  Falling low on stone and stucco light draws a gentle sense of age and use from these surfaces. Not that it’s all antiquity here in the Eternal City ­– contemporary consumerism barnacles everything and the Berlusconi media has updated the roman orgy for the airwaves, clubs, and private parties. If Daisy Miller were abroad now she’d have her trysts in a disco rather than in the Coliseum, ponder social position from a politician’s private villa rather than a drawing room, and die of a cocaine overdose instead of “Roman fever.”  This kind of decadence weighs heavily on those who live here – those I meet anyway, who are firmly on the left.  Hope for political change feels as autumnal everything else here.

Still, the films in the Gender Doc festival are well attended despite being shown on an outdoor dance floor.  Moments after the applause ends, a thunder heavy beat hits the air, bodies wind up like tops about to spin, and the screen pulls up, revealing a stage show that conjures Fellini.  I dance with woman whose skin is like salted leather but whose fluid energy draws a flock of gay boys to her. The heel of her white boot is a gyrating center of gravity. All we can do is orbit.  Again NC comes to mind –those tawdry Raleigh gay clubs where I first saw people dancing furiously to forget about church.  From out hips and eyes, the dancing woman and I send playful vulgar challenges to each other, getting closer, touching. It’s all wriggle and grind till we part.   In a shop window the woman’s tiny but expensive heel would be a kind of repulsive insect to my eyes, but here, as she struts away, balancing the swing of her ass with quick turns and kicks, I am amazed how it has the power to step on Baptist steeples and the palaces of the Vatican.

For a line-up and commentary on the excellent films at Gender Doc- go to Pamela Cohn's wonderful film blog:http://stillinmotion.typepad.com/still_in_motion/2010/08/genderdocu-film-festivalrome-italy.html