Coming To The YUK Near You, Sophie’s ‘Give Me Pity

The Guardian
Give Me Pity! review – brilliantly observed hallucinatory nightmare of 80s showbiz
By Peter Bradshaw
Nov 7, 2023

Musician turned film-maker Amanda Kramer gave us a retro campy reverie of queer longing in her previous feature Please Baby Please which, though interesting, was oddly unsatisfying and insubstantial. This works much better: a genuinely strange and unsettling creation whose meaning and form can’t quite be pinned down.

It appears to be an imaginary standalone primetime US TV special that went out in some alternative dream universe between 1975 and 1985; it is centered on one particular star, a brassy, heart-on-sleeve song-and-dance performer called Sissy St Claire, played by Sophie von Haselberg. She does musical numbers, elaborate costume changes, dance routines, and goofy comedy sketches, all for the cause of entertainment. Sissy looks like a cross between Barbra Streisand and Bette Midler (Von Haselberg is in fact Midler’s daughter) with a bit of Judy Garland’s repressed agony in I Could Go on Singing.

But something is very wrong. Sissy notices out of the corner of her eye a disturbing masked figure with a knife offstage, who looks as if he wants to murder her. There are flashes of hallucinatory horror, symptoms of an impending crisis which are produced in the same cheesy way as the rest of the show. Is Sissy having a breakdown at the very moment of her professional triumph? Or is this whole thing a dream that she or someone else is having?

Everything about this film is very well observed: it really does look like a TV special of a certain period, but modified and tweaked to make it look like a nightmare cabaret. The intertitles are particularly amusing, and Sissy’s monologue observations are sometimes very interesting, particularly her comment that Nazis should really be played by unknown or emerging actors because people would have a hard time accepting established stars in this kind of role. Sissy is in danger of a catastrophe that she in some sense wants: being destroyed by the experience, a sacrifice on the altar of show business. And it’s never clear if she gets the pity she craves.

Share A little Divinity

2 thoughts on “Coming To The YUK Near You, Sophie’s ‘Give Me Pity

  1. Have you seen this movie Don? I have wanted to see it since it was first released but I also kept holding out in hopes that I could stream it for free somewhere or somehow. Oh well I know it’s available so I need to bite the bullet and “rent” it online because the trailer was intense, insane and funny! Yes, this week I’m really going to do it I’m going to be an online patron of a movie starring the daughter of the most talented star of all time in my opinion! So back to my question…have you seen it and how was it Don?

    1. No I haven’t seen it but the reviews have been exceptionally good for Sophie and the movie. I’m going to wath it on Amazon over the Thanksgiving Holiday…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Verified by MonsterInsights