Transeltown

Experimental narrative that follows a Chaplinesque character on her adventures in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen (19 min).

Year:

1992

Format:

16mm

Starring:

Myra Paci

Carter Burwell

Dina Emerson

Stanton Miranda

Natalia Neszuu

Vera Setta

Adrienne Weiss

Festivals:

Frauenkino Xenia, Zurich, 1995
Third Wave Film Festival, New York City, 1995
Internationales Schwullesbisches Film Festival, Berlin, 1995
London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, 1994
Frauenkulturhaus Thealit, Bremen, Germany, 1994
Feminale Women’s Film Festival, Cologne, Germany, 1994
DV8 Film Festival, Vienna, 1994
Paris Lesbian Film Festival, 1994
Yale University, Film Studies Seminar, 1993
New York Lesbian & Gay International Film Festival, 1993
Melbourne Queer Film & Video Festival, 1993
Torino Lesbian & Gay International Film Festival, 1993
Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, 1993
Atlanta Film and Video Festival, 1993
Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, Hamburg, 1993
Mix: New York Lesbian & Gay Experimental Film/Video Festival, 1993
Mix: Brazil, Rio De Janeiro and Sao Paolo, 1993
San Francisco International Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, 1992
Chicago Lesbian & Gay International Film Festival, 1992
Los Angeles International Gay and Lesbian Film and Video Festival, 1992
Boston Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, 1992

(essay written in 1992 to help befuddled viewers)

Myra Paci on Transeltown

I thought I might give you all an idea of what I was thinking about when I wrote Transeltown; you don’t have to read this, but there are so many people who tell me they don’t understand jiminy cricket about the film and I want you to get it. It’s no fun for you or me if you don’t.

To begin with the title, TRANSELTOWN: I fantasize about Tinseltown as much as the next filmmaker. Why not make a reference to our particular Mecca? But more specifically, Transeltown is the place where changes happen, the town of Trans-formations, Trans-sexuals, Trans-cendence, Trans-ylvania. TRANS – to go across. Transeltown, the place of thresholds, where on can go back and forth (perhaps with some suffering) between life and death; pain and pleasure; female to male and in between; dreary, grey present and bacchanalian, Technicolor no-time; Times Square in the early 1990’s (coming onto the millennium, folks) and some pseudo-Baroque, late-Renaissance, Mannerist, Italo-Greenaway, Satyriconite banquet. That nasty violence in the white dentist’s chair? Well, when you join a society of any sort you usually undergo a rite of passage. This one is maybe a little severe. But don’t worry – Pootie (that’s the protagonist, with the cap) will soon be slipped into a bag by the entranced housewife, dragged into the house past the oblivious husband, and the whole thing begins again, with Pootie to reemerge as the Mistress of Ceremonies. It will be Pootie’s turn to wield the electric sander. The intention is for all those people who have become listless and hopeless to find, or conjure up, a jewel of fantasy – in Pootie’s case a gleaming and lovely naked thing – that will trip the balance from this world of bleakness to the world of glorious illusion. For some, that is the only salvation.

My father, Pier Franco Paci, is in some respects responsible for this film, though he’s no longer among us, the living. Piero came from Assisi, Italy to the U.S. in his late twenties. Recited a lot of Dante to me. Talked a lot about SEX. Brought me to see a lot of raunchy, sometimes beautiful Italian movies and ever-beautiful Italian medieval, renaissance and baroque art. Before he died he spent a few days in a coma. I have not forgotten watching him, holding his hand,, talking and singing to him while he was in that state. In between wanting him to go, already, I wanted nothing more than to bring him back out from behind his eyelids. At the last moment he indeed opened his eyes and I swear his spirit/anima/Piero-as-we-knew-him flew like light back to his homeland. Maybe via something like flesh tunnel/urethra in Transeltown. Anyway, that is partly where Coitella, the comatose girl – she is not dead, she’s jut like a pupa, or tick, waiting to brush onto the right pants-leg in order to be reborn – comes from. And in the decomposition of his diseased body, the bile sliding out of his naso-gastric tube, could not but be inherent the utter opposite: reproductive fluids seeping from vaginas, from penises, appearing on walls, sticking to your shoes, dripping off fish,, until all that’s left, or necessary, of a person is the creamy residue they leave on your bedspread. The Dante? I thought it would be a nice kick in the face of Piero and the whole male canon to have a woman, looking like a Jewish boy, playing Dante Alighieri; a naked, genital-less girl playing the sought-for Beatrice; New York City the Inferno; a Brazilian crazy-woman in Carnival outfit as the guide, Virgil; and suburban Connecticut as Paradise.

Here’s my translation of the Dante citations in the film:

  1. In the middle of the walk of our life, I found myself in a dark wood where the straight way was lost.
  2. Through me one goes into the suffering city. Through me one goes into eternal pain. Through me one goes among the lost. Abandon all hope, you who enter.
  3. I emerged from the sacred wave, remade as new plants are. Renewed with new leaves. Pure and ready to rise to the stars.

Download stills here.

"a morbid and strangely tender tale of love in the tradition of David Lynch; it is simultaneously repulsive and seductive – like a lesbian Eraserhead."

San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival

"Transeltown takes science fiction, horror, erotica and documentary to wonderfully perverse new levels [...] Frightening in its intensity, this film is positively arresting."

Kate Bornstein, Bay Area Reporter

"Paci’s liquid images and detailed characters suggest an investment in transcending gender boundaries not of the Thelma and Louise roadtrip, but rather, an intense exploration of ritual and desire, a fantasy that moves beyond the mystery of sexual union to questions of sexual transformation."

Elizabeth Subrin, Vision Magazine of Cinema/Television Arts

"The expression of difficult thoughts and desires and the complex, shifting explorations of these feelings are rendered elegantly, provocatively and with unflinching courage."

Elizabeth Subrin Guest Curator, FISHNET in cooperation with The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston

"Myra Paci’s Transeltown [is] a sci-fi and horror–inflected hallucination, whose vision of gender dysphoria and fluidity now seems years ahead of its time."

Judy Berman, The Village Voice

Awards

Atlanta Film and

Video Festival

Best Experimental Short

Honorable Mention

Chicago Lesbian and Gay

International Film Festival

Best Experimental Short

Jury Prize

New York University 

Craft Awards for Excellence in:

Filmmaking

Art Direction

Sound Design

Editing

Musical Score

Winner

Winner

Winner

Winner

Winner

Cast and Crew

Cast:

Myra Paci

Carter Burwell

Dina Emerson

Stanton Miranda

Natalia Neszuu

Vera Setta

Adrienne Weiss.

Produced, Written,

Directed, and Edited by

Myra Paci

Cinematography by

Giselle Chamma

Tim Naylor

Music and Sound Design by

Carter Burwell

Myra Paci

Production Design by

Henrique Mourthé

Costume Design by

Dagmar Lutringer

Cast:

Myra Paci

Carter Burwell

Dina Emerson

Stanton Miranda

Natalia Neszuu

Vera Setta

Adrienne Weiss.

Produced, Written,

Directed, and Edited by

Myra Paci

Cinematography by

Giselle Chamma

Tim Naylor

Music and Sound Design by

Carter Burwell

Myra Paci

Production Design by

Henrique Mourthé

Costume Design by

Dagmar Lutringer

Cast:

Myra Paci

Carter Burwell

Dina Emerson

Stanton Miranda

Natalia Neszuu

Vera Setta

Adrienne Weiss.

Produced, Written,

Directed, and Edited by

Myra Paci

Cinematography by

Giselle Chamma

Tim Naylor

Music and Sound Design by

Carter Burwell

Myra Paci

Production Design by

Henrique Mourthé

Costume Design by

Dagmar Lutringer