“That’s just what this country needs: a cock in a frock on a rock. ”
‘The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert’, directed by Stephan Elliott in 1994, is an Australian road movie and part of a cycle of films that included ‘Strictly Ballroom’ and ‘Muriel’s Wedding’ that made Australian cinema distinctive in the 1990s. Hugo Weaving plays Anthony Belrose, a drag queen who, along with his friends and fellow performers Bernadette, a transgender woman played by Terence Stamp and Adam, played by Guy Pearce, travels into the rural centre of the country from the relative cosmopolitan safety of Sydney. Along the way they discover the expected narrow mindedness and bigotry but also acceptance and an embrace of their performance. They deal with their encounters with the locals with a mixture of unrestrained campness and rapid put-downs. It’s a colourful, witty and, throughout, extravagant film that uses the performances of the characters as a series of musical interludes. The focus of the film is on the relationship between the three friends who’s combination of bitchiness and mutual support make them a strange family that is, perhaps aptly, less dysfunctional than those of the people they meet. The actors fully inhabit their parts. Weaving is the more underplayed of the three, hiding a secret from his past and, when the secret is revealed, learning how to deal with it. Stamp’s character is the adult of the three and is strangely vulnerable but impervious to the taunts she receives through the journey. Finally, Pearce’s portrayal of Adam Whitely, aka Felicia Jollygoodfellow, creates an unalloyed, hedonistic, at times dangerous character, often the comedic heart of the film. It’s a funny, profound, eccentric and taboo-busting film.
Would I recommend it? Yes – watch in a double bill with any Almodóvar movie.