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MAN TO MAN

UK, 1993 (MIFF 1994)

Director: John Maybury

An inventive, visual powerhouse, Man To Man brings to the screen Manfred Karge's one-woman play, Jacke wie Hose. The tour-de-force performance from the remarkable Tilda Swinton (who illuminated the stage production to unbridled acclaim) is a revelation, and will astound those who know her mainly from her more elusively restrained work for Derek Jarman (Caravaggio, Edward II) and Sally Potter (Orlando).

Fearing the poor house, Ella Gericke assumes the identity of her dead husband Max and takes to the world of men ("beer and schnapps and bugger all else"), in a Germany destined for Nazism and war. With this world comes a glimpse of love and power only visible when gender is incognito.

Plying an agile androgyny and a bitingly satirical repertoire of reproaches, Swinton ages from a young bride to an 'old man', invading the persona of countless characters, from Clark Gable to Snow White, along the way. Her shifting mask of identities is coloured by a swaggering sexuality that is ever-changing, and this constant mutability is mirrored in the stylistic bravado of avant-gardist director John Maybury. In his explosion of multiple imagery, twentieth century art icons, and black and white newsreel footage from the 1940s, Maybury fuses the innovative virtuosity of his pioneenng video work with the more cinematicaily 'mainstream'. Utilising an arresting and elegant array of electronic visual techniques, he tells not just the history of a single woman, Ella/Max, but the history of modern-day Germany, through its uneasy relationship to the politics of gender.

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