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SXSW: Swan Song

Patrick Pitsenbarger (Udo Kier), a retired hairdresser once known as The Liberace of Sandusky, is spending his final days in a nursing home. One day, a lawyer representing Pat’s former client, Rita Parker Sloan (Linda Carter), delivers the news to Pat that Rita has passed on. In her will has requested Pat to do her hair for her funeral and has set aside $25,000 for payment. Given the  fact that Pat still harbors bitter feelings towards Rita, he at first refuses. Many years ago, Rita left his salon for another one, run by Pat’s former protege Dee Dee Dale (Jennifer Coolidge). Pat changes his mind and sets out on an adventure, breaking out of the nursing home and walking down memory lane through Sandusky, Ohio, meeting old friends and making new friends along the way. Pat knows this is his swan song; the very last time he’ll be able to live his life on his terms.

Directed by Todd Stephens, Swan Song is a celebration of individuality and gay identity. According to Stephens the film is inspired by a real person he met in Sandusky and serves  a “love letter to the rapidly disappearing gay culture of America.” Udo Kier is an absolute delight. Even when the plot begins to wander, Kier’s portrayal of Pat keeps us grounded, engaged and interested in what will happen next. I thought it was a misstep not to include more information or a few flashback scenes of Pat’s deceased partner David. You’ll easily find yourself emotionally invested in this story and its characters.

Swan Song had its world premiere at the virtual 2021 SXSW Film Festival.

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