Glen or Glenda (Edward D. Wood Jr. / U.S., 1953):
(I Changed My Sex; He or She; Male or Female; The Transvestite)

The complete human being, Gurdjieff's "one great art" and the crux of Edward D. Wood Jr.'s breathtaking allegory. "Stark realism" is promised at the onset and thus Bela Lugosi amid skeletons and test tubes, the perfect befuddled overlord for the netherworld of reconciled opposites. "Man's constant grouping of things unknown" is a bifurcated case study, it begins as a problem tract and proceeds to dive deep into Eisenhower America's subconscious ether. Progress means wheels and wings, so why not pink satin undies for the weary fellow at the end of the day? A matter of dreams and dragons, the stupefied inspector (Lyle Talbot) hears about them from the sententious psychiatrist (Timothy Farrell): "Only the infinity of the depths of a man's mind can really tell the story." The marital dilemma casts Wood himself in suit and tie plus skirt and blonde wig, his alter ego is a dead ringer for the fiancée (Dolores Fuller) who enacts the ultimate sacrifice of relinquishing her angora sweater. Muggy and breathy voices debate while molten steel bars are cut and molded, a native interlude (cp. Herzog's Herdsmen of the Sun), lightning bolts for exclamation points. Ahead of Marnie, the turgid tree trunk before the slanted fireplace, normalcy as bondage loops scored to accordion music and a jeering, pointing mob led by Satan himself. "Interesting thought, isn't it?" Nothing less than aberrant cinema against staid ideas for Wood the naïf cousin of Deren and Isou, as singular and intensely personal a project as Eraserhead. The stampeding psyche and the search for wholeness, priapic artillery and valises of frilly finery for the studious boy (Tommy Haynes) who locates "the body of the woman within." ("Danger de mort," the warning sign of Cocteau's hermaphrodite is overcome, a happy ending for all.) Ineptitude or experimentation? God has the strings but no answers at the close, just Lugosi's perplexed glower. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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