Variety (1983). Courtesy Bette Gordon
Independent filmmaker Bette Gordon plays on taboo, sexual desire, power, and the cinematic and gendered gaze in Variety, co-written by Kathy Acker.
Christine is a woman living in 1980s New York who takes a job in the ticket office of a pornographic theatre. As her fascination with the material depicted on screen grows, she is simultaneously drawn to Louie, one of the theatre’s regulars, who she follows around the city and voyeuristically observes. In its subversive wit, Variety references and flips the typical power dynamic embedded in heterosexual pornography (and much of cinema), wherein the male gaze follows female subjects, as Louie’s private actions become Christine’s entertainment.
Starring Sandy McLeod and Will Patton, Variety features cameos by Nan Goldin, Spalding Gray, and Cookie Mueller.
Variety is screened in its original 35mm format alongside its precursor, Gordon’s Super 8 short film Anybody’s Woman (1981).
Erika Balsom is a scholar and critic based in London, working on cinema, art, and their intersection. She is a senior lecturer in Film Studies at King’s College London and holds a PhD in Modern Culture and Media from Brown University.
A pioneer in American independent cinema, Bette Gordon is known for her bold explorations of themes related to sexuality, violence and power. Gordon’s early short films, most notably Empty Suitcases (1981), won numerous awards and festival acclaim worldwide at The Berlin Film Festival, MoMA, and at The Whitney Biennial. Recent features include The Drowning (2017), Handsome Harry (2009) and Luminous Motion (2000). Gordon is currently a Professor at Columbia University’s School of the Arts Graduate MFA Program.