‘Swan Song’ Review: Udo Kier, on His Own and Fabulous
The German-born actor Udo Kier has one of those faces that can turn from angelic to demonic in an instant. His eyes are in part heavenly lapis lazuli, in part impenetrable quartz. He’s an invariably uncanny presence. Directors who have hired him more than once include Paul Morrissey, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Dario Argento, Lars von Trier, and S. Craig Zahler.
These days, more often than not, he’s cast in character roles, rarely asked to carry a movie. For “Swan Song” though, he’s in almost every frame. One could say he’s a revelation, but longtime Udo partisans always knew he had this kind of performance in him. And as the title of this movie, written and directed by Todd Stephens, indicates, the role is age-appropriate for the 76 year old.
Kier plays Pat, a former hairdresser now in a Sandusky, Ohio, nursing home. Back in his heyday, his flamboyance was mostly accepted in this straight community as a byproduct of his profession. In assisted living, he sneaks More cigarettes and obsessively folds paper napkins. Soon a lawyer arrives, asking him to do, as they say in crime movies, one last job: to style a dead ex-friend for her funeral.
There’s some bad blood here: “Bury her with bad hair,” Pat responds, despite the promise of a $25,000 honorarium. But he soon rouses himself and takes a long walk into town. Memories and hallucinations accompany his painful, sentimental journey.
Kier is unfailingly captivating in the film, which makes it all the more bothersome that the film itself doesn’t match him. A few plot inconsistencies seem like arbitrary land mines designed to trip Pat up, and the device of having certain characters speak wisdom from beyond the grave doesn’t land.
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes. In theaters.
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