Director Sally Potter / 1992 / UK/Russia/France/Italy/Netherlands

The welcome return of provocative film director Sally Potter teams her with festival favourite Tilda Swinton in a grand tour de force. Acquiring centuries, continents and sexes in a sweeping flourish, Orlando, as in Virginia Woolf's novel of 1928, is a lissome four-hundred-year-old with remarkable agility where gender is concerned.

Potter removes the sheep's clothing from Woolf's original story with additional ironic emphasis on the relationship between the central theme of gender and its complementaries - class and colonialism. Orlando may not be a centred-self but makes up for any shortcomings with ample upper-class self-centredness.

Structured as a series of exquisitely embroidered tableaux, Orlando stitches together a finely detailed and never-natural narrative with plenty of playful nudges and asides to the camera. Images themselves take on an almost moral or critical force as gender is repeatedly revealed to be a state of excess and detail.

Potter is helped here by production designers Ben van Os and Jan Roelfs, best known for their lavish work with Peter Greenaway. A music score reminiscent of Nyman and the Jarmanesque use of performers and personalities in cameo roles — watch out for Quentin Crisp as Queen Elizabeth I — has Orlando taking a well deserved place in a particular European art cinema not necessarily well regarded for its sensitivity to women.

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