Tender Fictions

Pioneering lesbian filmmaker Barbara Hammer's hour-long autobiography (1995) is by turns serious and insouciant. She describes a childhood obsession with Shirley Temple that was nurtured by her mother, who wanted her to be a child performer—an obsession she seems to demonstrate she's overcome when she playfully appears as an adult in drag. She also intercuts color shots of herself with black-and-white shots of Peter Jennings, as if she's being interviewed. But most engaging is the shifting relationship between the fim's images and sounds. At times the sound describes the images, at times theoretical texts by Barthes relate more abstractly to them. These and other shifts keep the viewer active; it's a film one can never accept passively.

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