Victor/Victoria ★★½

I went to the Venice Film Festival and photographed Julie Andrews on the red carpet. Luca, the director of the new Suspiria, introduced her.

I remember how critical the great Pauline Kael was of both Julie Andrews and The Sound of Music. At the screening I realised how truly powerless Kael´s words are in the face of such cultural milestones as Mary Poppins. Because I have read Kael I imagined her opinions were held by more people. But she might well not have ever existed as far as the crowds cared. Nothing Andrews has done has ever measured up to that twin blast but her immortality is assured. (Luca told us her favorite movie is The Americanization of Emily. I will seek that one out.)

Afterwards the screening I noticed all these people dressed to the nines taking photos in front of the Venice Film Festival placards. Are they movie stars, I asked. No, I was told, just regular people. So at the fest, people dress up in their best finery to pretend to be movie stars themselves. They partake of the glamor they worship, they become it. Somehow I felt like I finally understood the worship of stardom and glamor. It is a way to make your life special, to transform your existence. It is just like religion, I guess.

I definitely felt poor in Venice, but I ate my peanuts outside Tiffanys in my personalised tribute to Audrey Hepburn. Perhaps if you treat yourself as special, you start to feel more special. Perhaps that is the lesson of glamor. And feeling special is a way of feeling attractive which is a way of feeling like you deserve to be in the world.

Victor/Victoria is about feeling like you deserve to be in the world as you are. It´s about self-acceptance, embracing your difference. Its message is worthy and positive.

The movie feels constructed with the classical touch. There are many rousing moments. For example, there is a brilliant cut to the exterior of a restaurant as chaos erupts inside. Such touches are everywhere. The farce fizzes. And Lesley Anne Warren deserved an Oscar.

Why was I slightly disappointed. Perhaps it was jet-lag, the fact that I hadn't slept, the fact that I was sick. But . . .

1. I love Julie Andrews and her voice is divine, but compare her scenes as a starving woman to her scenes as a drag queen. She is simply not capable of transforming her gender and appearing masculine. Simply, she is miscast.

2. Henry Mancini´s songs are terrible.

3. The real star of the film is Robert Preston. Preston is patently fake, an enthusiastic hollow man. He is therefore excellent in Sam Peckinpah´s Junior Bonner, because he plays an empty blowhard father who is all facade. But, like Gene Kelly, in any movie where he is not cast as a fake, his falsity sabotages any semblance of character or reality the surrounding movie tries to construct.

4. I still might have recommended this movie. But its big climax -- a closing number by Robert Preston -- repulses. If, for example, Joel Gray from Cabaret had been cast in the Preston role, Victor/Victoria might have been saved.

5. If you can overlook the casting mistakes and the lousy melodies, you will probably enjoy this. I could not quite manage to do so.