Reviewed by: Trinity

At the start of Princesa, we see a small girl looking inquisitively at a young woman (Ingrid de Souza) sitting on a train bound for Milan. But then, as border officials ask for papers, we discover the truth. The young woman is in fact a young man, Fernando, formerly a Catholic Brazilian boy who plans to work as a prostitute to pay for a sex change.

Upon arriving in Milan she hooks up with Charlo (Biba Lerhue), an old friend, who introduces Fernanda to Karin (Lulu Pecorari), a middle-aged transvestite, who acts as the boss and mother to a large dysfunctional family of transvestite hookers. Fernanda's beauty quickly makes her a hit with the clients and with Karin, who takes her into her home, as slowly she saves up the money to pay for her operation.

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Then her world changes when she meets Gianni (Cesare Bocci), a reserved, married businessman, and experiences a not entirely successful first encounter. Despite this, he feels the flames of passion rekindled inside him and leaves his wife to start a touching and romantic relationship with her.

Life seems to be a fairytale for Fernanda, her Prince Charming coming along to rescue her from a life of servitude, giving her the thing she dreams of most, the chance to become a real woman. But life is rarely a fairytale, and soon she must decide whether her dream is really what she wants.

Princesa is based on the book of the same name, a semi-autobiographical story, co-written by the real Fernanda. Director Henrique Goldman sought her input and so the story metamorphised from a fairy tale into a searching look at personal identity.

Nevertheless, there is still a great deal of magic in the film and the first two thirds retain the hope of a dream ending. Unfortunately, in real life things are never as easy, and Fernanda committed suicide before the film was completed, echoing the making of Leaving Las Vegas.

Despite, or perhaps because of, using non-professional actors, Goldman spins a moving story and allows the audience to empathise with the characters. In particular, de Souza, as Fernanda/Princesa, is the calm centre of the storm. At present, I do not know whether s/he is a real transvestite, but the performance is beautiful, if subdued.

Princesa is a charming fairytale for the new age, and guaranteed to tug a few heart strings.

Reviewed on: 09 Aug 2001
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Director: Henrique Goldman

Writer: Ellis Freeman, Henrique Goldman, Fernanda Farias de Albuquerque, Maurizio Jannelli.

Starring: Ingrid de Souza, Cesare Bocci, Lulu Pecorari, Mauro Pirovano, Biba Lerhue

Year: 2001

Runtime: 93 minutes

Country: Italy/Germany/UK


EIFF 2001

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