Venus Boyz

on August 22, 2003 by Kim Williamson
There's an intriguing moment in "Venus Boyz," a documentary about women--known as "drag kings"--who dress and perform as men, in which two of the interviewees are conversing with each other about what they wish they could be, gender-wise: F, M, O (for "other"), or some combination thereof. As one describes that perfect self, the other's face goes peaked with bafflement. It's the expression that might be on the faces of even the more adventuresome among the art-house crowd as they watch this Gabriel Baur ("Die Bettkonigin") film, but Baur's preference for a close-up camera in extended takes and her intelligent decisions in dialogue editing are likely to replace those looks of "huh?" with something more rapt.

As Baur interweaves the life stories of such drag kings as Queen Bee Luscious, Dred Gerestant and Bridge Markland, she includes periods of long silence, in which her camera simply watches her subjects; this anthropological approach paradoxically makes her film all the more expressive. "Venus Boyz" is not a pro/con documentary in which each "side" states its case; it's something more intimate, a succession of interior explorations by each performer. The presentation's key shortcoming, not Baur's fault, is that, with the exception of the work of drag king pioneer Diane Torr and singer/poet Storme Webber, the drag-king stage turns--usually limited to posing, moueing, lipsynching--are less lamé than lame. Directed and written by Gabriel Baur. Produced by Kurt Maeder and Gabriel Baur. A First Run release. Documentary. Unrated. Running time: 104 min

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