Antony's Turning Premieres at DocNYC

Jonah Wolf

Last night, Paper attended the premier of Turning, Charles Atlas's film of singer Antony's 2006 European tour of the same name. Based on a performance at the 2004 Whitney Biennial, the tour brought Antony and group together onstage with thirteen women who appeared consecutively on a rotating platform and in video projections by Atlas, a former Merce Cunningham collaborator. The film intercuts musical performances with emotional interviews, conducted by Antony, where the women discuss coming of age and coming to terms with their femininity. There is no narrative explanation or voiceover; Antony addresses the camera only once, to correct a Le Monde preview that used the phrase "Transsexual Manifesto." (Several, but not all, of the women involved identify as trans, as does Antony; it is tempting to read the film's title as a reference to the process of becoming a woman.)

The enthusiastic audience regularly broke into applause, as when performance artist/musician Kembra Pfahler, covered in yellow body paint, explained that she and her companions were "womanizers" for "bringing woman" wherever they went. When filmmaker Ira Sachs, moderator of the post-screening Q&A;, described the artists as "two very sensitive men," Antony -- leaning against the screen in a black sweater and khakis -- smushed together his lips, zagged his head downwards, and mimicked a game-show buzzer. (He later apologized, explaining that he didn't identify as a man.) The singer remained vague in describing what the film was about: "[M]y idea was everything moving towards the feminine. It's been a theme in my life and in my work for a long time."

Atlas, in a pale goatee, orange sneakers, and a Rorschach-blot-like shirt, had even less to say. "I sort of entered into a world of beauty," he announced, but declined to elaborate. "I don't know how to say it exactly, but straight beauty. So direct. In that way, it was a challenge for me to do something That's the only word I can use."

Afterward, the audience was invited to an after-party at Bowery Electric DJed by Turning model Johanna Constantine. Her fellow cast member Nomi Ruiz (of Hercules & Love Affair) performed soulful torch songs accompanied by electric guitar. "This is one I wrote around the same time we were turning," she said with a laugh before starting her final song, based around a refrain of "I'm still a girl."

Click here to see Antony's artwork in the story "Sound and Vision" from our November issue, featuring pieces by artist/musicians.

Turning opens Friday at the IFC Center, 323 Sixth Avenue.

Subscribe to Get More