Christine takes a casual job selling tickets at one of the numerous sex cinemas on New York’s 42nd Street. The work leads to a strange tension, which she perceives as a liminal and (for the feminist she is) ambivalent experience.
One day, she gets talking to Louis – a mysterious and elegant, if slightly patronising, older customer. Like a voyeur, but without feeling any erotic or sexual interest, Christine begins to stalk Louis’s life situation and watch it like a cinema-goer might. She discovers that he is involved in dubious goings-on and makes an appointment with him to clear things up.
Variety is a subversive and radical response to the classic narrative mode of presenting stories from the perspective of the male gaze. As such, the film is a feminist variation of films like Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom. Instead of the male gaze, then, Ms Gordon focuses on female desire, subtly weaving a narrative about the ambiguous motives of the female protagonist.
Film programme Leaving a Sinking Ship
A pioneer in the American independent film world, Beth Gordon now enjoys an international reputation, her works seen as feminist cinema classics. Following a degree programme at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, she and other colleagues – such as Christine Vachon, Steve Buscemi and Todd Haynes – set up a film collective in the Tribeca district of 1980s New York. It was during this time that the film Empty Suitcases was made. Ms Gordon belongs to the No Wave Cinema movement which emerged from the punk rock scene in Lower East Side. Apart from her film output, she works as a lecturer at the Hofstra University in Hemstead NY, as a TV editor and as a theatre dramaturge. She has also directed a few music videos. She currently holds the post of associate professor in the film division at Columbia University School of the Arts NY. With Variety her first feature film, it was only in 2010 that Handsome Harry was to follow as her second full-length film.
Films by Bette Gordon (Selection)
Handsome Harry 2010 | Luminous Motion 1998 | Empty Suitcases 1981 | Exchanges 1979 | An Algorithm 1977 | Noyes 1976 | Still Life 1975