Ellen Cantor’s Perpetual Revisions

00684Barry Schwabsky at The Nation:

Whether or not she was right about Kahlo, Cantor’s own mature work was never naive about either feeling or form. She knew how to deal sophisticatedly with her own passionately maintained innocence, as embodied in the demand for true love where propriety would have urged the acceptance of something less. InCircus Lives From Hell, and then in Pinochet Porn, she managed to refract her own experiences through those of others in order to bring into focus her idea that “the traumas in our childhood brought out parallel traumas in our adulthood, which seemed to extend from the largest historical catastrophes, to the most intimate personal misfortunes.” She based the narratives not on her own life, but on that of a friend who had grown up in South America. “I found I could channel my own raw emotions through her dramas,” Cantor explained. Circus Lives is the story of five children growing up under dictatorship; the film she eventually derived from it focuses on the two “identical daughters” (sometimes referred to as twins, sometimes said to be a year apart) of the dictator himself. The girls, Pipa and Paloma—both played by Gangitano—enjoy, if that’s the right word, feverishly complicated love lives. Cantor cast herself as their father’s maid; she’s the servant of the story rather than its focal point, except when she becomes the object of the general’s sadomasochistic attentions; she continues to erratically clean with her feather duster as he fingers her from behind.

more here.