Melissa Friedling

Mercedes, Here Lies the Heart (2002) 16mm, color, 35 min

Genre: Narrative, Animation, Documentary, Experimental

Keywords: art & artists, biography, body, films about film, found footage, history, literature & theater, personal/diary/journal, queer/bi/trans

Inspired by the hyperbolic prose of notorious celebrity fetishist, Mercedes de Acosta, this film poses questions about truth, identity, and desire.

Film Synopsis:
Mercedes, Here Lies the Heart is dedicated to the memory of poet, novelist, playwright, and Hollywood screenwriter, Mercedes de Acosta. Mercedes is inspired by De Acosta's own published memoirs, Here Lies the Heart (1960) in which De Acosta obsessively lists her impressive cache of celebrity acquaintances (including Elenora Duse, Isadora Duncan, Alice B. Toklas, Marlene Deitrich, and Greta Garbo, among others). The film borrows De Acosta's hyperbolic stylistics to move through archival footage, narrative fantasy sequences, and dramatic "reenactments" in manic combination of varied genre forms. While highlighting De Acosta's distinctive passions for celebrity and her own sexual, ethnic, and spiritual entanglements, Mercedes poses questions about biographical structure and autobiographical representation, history and fantasy, identity and desire.

"At once an insightful deconstruction of stardom and biography, and a wry camp appreciation of their value, Mercedes, Here Lies the Heart is witty, artful, and original."
--Steven Cohan, author of Masked Men: Masculinity and the Movies in the Fifties (1997)and editor of Hollywood Musicals: The Film Reader (2002).

"Mercedes, Here Lies the Heart is exhaustively researched and combines original as well as archival footage, mixing documentary, fiction and fantasy. Using idioms of fan culture and voyeurism, rendered in a polyvalent form, Friedling contributes to a rich tradition of filmmakers who have experimented with gender and personal narrative. What makes Friedling's work distinctive is her use of a marginal figure such as Mercedes (who nevertheless perceives herself as central to various historical events). The director does not permit us identification with this figure, but allows her to become the point from which to launch a series of mini-essays and vignettes at break-neck speed. Mercedes' story becomes as much about her as it is about the paucity of truth, the fertility of imagination, the charm of media images, the crisis of lesbian desire and a melancholic search for meaning. . . Mercedes lives her life as a tissue of lies which lead her to an equally flawed, highly Orientalizing, moment of truth . . . In subtle ways, the film makes her fabrications a mockery of the worlds inhabited by her glamorous ex-lovers Garbo and Dietrich; a world that remains inaccessible to Mercedes in any real terms. By turning the limitations of her (marginal) protagonists into a meditation on society at large, I would argue that Friedling goes further than a previous generation of feminist filmmakers who explored women's valorization of personal narrative when confronted with the impossibility of female self-expression within patriarchy. Friedling affectionately celebrates narratives of failure and error, which are compelling for their insistent, if doomed, alternative takes on reality."
-Priya Jaikumar, Assistant Professor of Film at the University of Southern California's School of Cinema-Television and author of Cinema at the End of Empire: Britain and India, 1927-1947 (2006).

Rental: $100
16mm Rental: $100

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