There’s something about intelligent lesbian lovelorn conversation that irrevocably holds me in its sway. And coming out very soon on DVD & VOD on Sept. 6, “The Royal Road” an unusual, innovative documentary is a must-see for every lesbian and gay and everyone else, who is reading this. It’s kind of a jewel, in its’ own unique, stubborn way.
Filmmaker Jenni Olson debuted “The Royal Road” to much acclaim at the Sundance Film Festival last year, but I’m just catching up to its’ challenging beautys now. “The Royal Road” doesn’t make things easy for the viewer. Its’ esthetic is extreme. The 16 mm. camera NEVER moves and there is not one human being in the frame.Nor will there ever be. But there is an incredibly revealing and engaging voice-over by the filmmaker herself. It’s not a lesbian conversation. It’s a lesbian monologue, perhaps the longest one ever, as Olson confronts us with the daunting, relentless shot-after-shot of California’s decaying once pristine Royal Road or the Camino Real.
Once a uninterrupted trail from San Francisco to Los Angeles, the road itself is part of California’s repulsive urban sprawl and not romantic at all. While it is nothing to look at, Olson MAKES us look at it, and at the same time, because the images she’s chosen don’t move, you HAVE to listen to her. And you do. And it becomes mesmeric.
As a native New Yorker, who has still yet to visit the LGBT capital of the world, the City by the Bay, it was all news to me, as Olson wants to show us HER lesbian San Francisco and tell her own woman’s story of how she left her heart there.
And a large part of her story is wrapped up in Alfred Hitchcock’s Number One critically proclaimed film “Vertigo.” By the time, she gets to this part of “The Royal Road” I was completely hooked. I’d only re-watched “Vertigo” earlier this week!On Monday night! It’s a film that never leaves you. It’s its’ own obsession.
Olson hooked me into her narrative, just as the hypnotic spell of Kim Novak’s Madeline Elster bewitches James Stewart’s stalwart, but vertically challenged policeman Scotty Ferguson in this classic movie of Obsession. And of secondarily, obsession with San Francisco.
She explains as she reads from an unheard, cut speech from the original “Vertigo” screenplay that Gavin Elster explains that his wife, Madeline(Novak) has fallen under the spell of old San Francisco and that it has driven her mad.So intense is her desire to find ole San Fran that she roams the city in search of it and stops whenever a piece of it jumps out at her.
Olson involves the viewer mightily with this ingenious piece of historical/cinematic dialogue that I’d never heard spoken before. As research, it’s a find. It’s breathtaking and I’m not going to do “The Royal Road” the injustice of a complete speech quotation here. That would be tantamount to spoiling it, but suffice it to say that it makes “The Royal Road” and also “Vertigo” at last make sense.
So I have to say thank you, Jenni Olsen, for finally elucidating this. She also audaciously makes Hitchcock a character in her monologue as she is trying to explain and examine HIS obsession with San Francisco and “Vertigo” and her own. For the first time, she claims “Vertigo” as an important lesbian movie in terms of the impact that the quest for character of Madeline, mirrored her own.
So she answers a couple of important, unresolved questions about “Vertigo,” including the fact that the quixotic name of the mysterious Madeline was probably inspired by Proust! And of course, it’s Proust’s tasting a madeline cookie that sends him on HIS historic literary quest in “Remembrance of Things Past.” Just as Olson has taken us on a “Royal Road” into her own history, in her own unique. original way.
I loved this lovely little film and I hope you do, too!
#Vertigo # Royal Road # Lesbian# San Francisco # Documentary # Hitchcock # Royal Road