Review: A fabulous Udo Kier rediscovers himself in the delightful ‘Swan Song’ (SXSW 2021)

SWAN SONG is a sweet and life-affirming tale with a fabulous Udo Kier as aging hairdresser Pat Pitsenbarger, the “Liberace of Sandusky” as he journeys across town to rediscover himself & reconcile with the past.

Retired hairdresser Pat Pitsenbarger (Udo Kier) has given up on life from the confines of his small-town Sandusky, Ohio nursing home. But when Pat gets word that a former client’s (Linda Evans) dying wish was for Pat to style her final hairdo, he sets out on an epic journey across Sandusky to confront the ghosts of his past — and collect the beauty supplies necessary for the job. SWAN SONG is a comical and bittersweet journey about rediscovering oneself, and looking gorgeous while doing so.

The legendary Udo Kier delivers a touching and vibrant performance as the (real-life Sandusky legend) Pat, as he reconnects with and reflects on the past, delivering lines like “I know what you’re thinking… how can someone so gorgeous possibly be on social security?,” and dancing on stage at a gay bar to Robyn’s “Dancing on My Own” while wearing a chandelier on his head.

They say you can’t go home again, and while much has changed since his flamboyant days as the “Liberace of Sandusky”, Pat’s new encounters with the various people and places from his life, including a coolly catty Jennifer Coolidge as his backstabbing former assistant, Dee Dee, help set him on the path to finding himself once again.

Writer/Director Todd Stephens calls SWAN SONG “a love letter to the rapidly disappearing “gay culture” of America,” in which, thanks to assimilation and technology, “small-town gay bars like The Universal Fruit and Nut Company are becoming extinct.” He adds, “SWAN SONG is dedicated to all the forgotten flaming florists and hairdressers who built the gay community and blazed the trail for the rights many of us cling to today. But, above all, for me this film is about learning that it’s never too late to live again.”

SWAN SONG is a simple, charming, funny, poignant and life-affirming film. In a word: delightful.

Rating: 4/5

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