photos from Mrya's films
projects

The Fairy Queen

Searching for Paradise

Girls Night Out

When You Are Old and Grey

Mix Trailer

LIFEbeat

Jerky Boys

XXXtasy: Two Days in
the Life of a Saint

Transeltown

L'Amour 2

Butch Patrol

Transeltown
Summary | Cast and Crew | Festivals | Press | Awards | Other Writings

Summary
1992. 16mm. 19 minutes. Experimental narrative that follows a Chaplinesque character on her adventures in New York City's Hell's Kitchen.

Press
Cast: Myra Paci, Carter Burwell, Dina Emerson, Stanton Miranda, Natalia Neszuu, Vera Setta, and Adrienne Weiss.

Produced, Written, Directed, and Edited by Myra Paci
Cinematography by Giselle Chamma and Tim Naylor
Music and Sound Design by Carter Burwell and Myra Paci
Production Design by Henrique Mourthé
Costume Design by Dagmar Lutringer

festivals

Press
16th San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, 1992
“Myra Paci’s Transeltown is a morbid and strangely tender tale of love in the tradition of David Lynch; it is simultaneously repulsive and seductive – like a lesbian Eraserhead. “

Bay Area Reporter – Kate Bornstein, June 18, 1992
“Only one of the Sweet Dreams program entries was available for preview, but Myra Paci’s Transeltown by itself is worth the price of the whole show (which also includes Su Friedrich’s 1982 But No One and the European lesbian S/M epic Mano Destra). Those who flocked to Naked Lunch but were disappointed by David Cronenberg’s glossing over of the seamier side of William S. Burroughs’ world need look no further than Paci’s Transeltown. Paci is the lesbian answer to Burroughs. Transeltown takes science fiction, horror, erotica and documentary to wonderfully perverse new levels. An androgynous Hispanic central figure is slowly drawn into a world of sex and death. Frightening in its intensity, this film is positively arresting. Necrophilia, sacrificial rites, drag queens, religious mysticism and a celebration of the senses make this a rich cinematic experience."

Vision Magazine of Cinema/Television Arts, Boston Elizabeth Subrin, Fall Issue, 1992
"The archetypal Dante narrative is transported to fin-de-siecle Times Square when a lost, lonely girl drags home the naked body of a genital-less blonde, whose subsequent disappearance compels our androgynous protagonist (played by the director, New York University graduate film student Myra Paci) into a nightmarish, ecstatic world of thresholds – Transeltown. This stunning 16mm narrative short climaxes in a carnivalesque, bacchanalian club scene in which hostile daytime encounters return to party as transgendered, seductive witness/voyeurs. The butch fish-gutter’s leers becomes the Master of Castration’s lures; the pervert pushing the x-rated female anatomy photos shifts to a drag queen offering a film (video footage hurling through a urethral flesh tunnel); the rocking rhythms of a rabbi bent over texts seem erotically charged. Here Dante finds her elusive Mistress of Ceremonies, who reveals the source of her circumcision/clitoridectomy as she lures the initiate under the electric sander. Clearly influenced by Ulrike Ottinger, Peter Greenaway, and with zombie clips from Night of the Living Dead, Transeltown has a lush soundtrack of Eastern lullabies, bird songs, and dissynchronized, treated voice-overs. Paci’s liquid images and detailed characters suggest an investment in transcending gender boundaries not of the Thelma and Louise roadtrip, but rather, an intense exploration of ritual and desire, a fantasy that moves beyond the mystery of sexual union to questions of sexual transformation."

Fuse Magazine, Toronto (Robert F. Reid-Pharr, Winter 1993-94)
Review of  “Mix: The 7th New York Lesbian and Gay Experimental Film and Video Festival”
"Myra Paci’s… Transeltown (1992), [is] a work that details the search of a boyish-looking woman – or womanish-looking boy – played by Paci herself, for 'femininity.' During 'her' journey she finds the dead body of a young woman, upon whom s/he immediately focuses her desires, taking it home, cleaning it, feeding it, lying on top of it, until it unexpectedly  disappears, leaving behind only a trail of viscous, pungent 'goo.'"

Awards

Other Writings
Elizabeth Subrin, Guest Curator, FISHNET in cooperation with The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, 1993

In Sadie Benning’s and Myra Paci’s work, the expression of difficult thoughts and desires and the complex, shifting explorations of these feelings are rendered elegantly, provocatively and with unflinching courage. The significant critical attention received by this work is testimony to the groundbreaking contributions that queer artists are making to debates around “identity politics.” In a decade where the intersections between cultural and economic power are virtually inseparable, the ownership of identity has become a highly charged political issue. It’s not surprising that the alienated, childlike characters played by Paci and Benning are drawn to fantasy lands (inside my head; where the straight way was lost), whether the lure of the elusive Coitella of Transeltown or the romantic rebel adventures conjured in Benning’s bedroom. Outside their bedroom windows, desire and expression are controlled and classified within both dominant and marginal cultures…clearly Benning’s and Paci’s work addresses sexuality and power.

The courage to fantasize, freely, dangerously, contradictorily – to look deeply into what we are really imagining – is what I find most powerful about this work. To find love in an ice queen or tenderness in anger. To speak boldly with questions, provocation, ambivalence. …as Myra’s transgendered characters shift from loving to cruel, the uncertain boundaries between pain and pleasure, exploited victim and empowered subject are blurred. In these works, love is destabilized: questions are posed about the relationships between love and sex, family and desire, pleasure and pain, child and adult, reality and fiction – scary, intimate, shifting, dreaming. These are images moving beyond subversion towards re-vision, demanding the freedom to name for oneself what is love.

Myra Paci on Transeltown (essay written in 1992 to help befuddled viewers)

I thought I might give you all an idea of what I was thinking about when I wrote Transeltown; you don’t have to read this, but there are so many people who tell me they don’t understand jiminy cricket about the film and I want you to get it. It’s no fun for you or me if you don’t.
To begin with the title, TRANSELTOWN: I fantasize about Tinseltown as much as the next filmmaker. Why not make a reference to our particular Mecca? But more specifically, Transeltown is the place where changes happen, the town of Trans-formations, Trans-sexuals, Trans-cendence, Trans-ylvania. TRANS – to go across. Transeltown, the place of thresholds, where on can go back and forth (perhaps with some suffering) between life and death; pain and pleasure; female to male and in between; dreary, grey present and bacchanalian, Technicolor no-time; Times Square in the early 1990’s (coming onto the millennium, folks) and some pseudo-Baroque, late-Renaissance, Mannerist, Italo-Greenaway, Satyriconite banquet. That nasty violence in the white dentist’s chair? Well, when you join a society of any sort you usually undergo a rite of passage. This one is maybe a little severe. But don’t worry – Pootie (that’s the protagonist, with the cap) will soon be slipped into a bag by the entranced housewife, dragged into the house past the oblivious husband, and the whole thing begins again, with Pootie to reemerge as the Mistress of Ceremonies. It will be Pootie’s turn to wield the electric sander. The intention is for all those people who have become listless and hopeless to find, or conjure up, a jewel of fantasy – in Pootie’s case a gleaming and lovely naked thing – that will trip the balance from this world of bleakness to the world of glorious illusion. For some, that is the only salvation.

My father, Pier Franco Paci, is in some respects responsible for this film, though he’s no longer among us, the living. Piero came from Assisi, Italy to the U.S. in his late twenties. Recited a lot of Dante to me. Talked a lot about SEX. Brought me to see a lot of raunchy, sometimes beautiful Italian movies and ever-beautiful Italian medieval, renaissance and baroque art. Before he died he spent a few days in a coma. I have not forgotten watching him, holding his hand,, talking and singing to him while he was in that state. In between wanting him to go, already, I wanted nothing more than to bring him back out from behind his eyelids. At the last moment he indeed opened his eyes and I swear his spirit/anima/Piero-as-we-knew-him flew like light back to his homeland. Maybe via something like flesh tunnel/urethra in Transeltown. Anyway, that is partly where Coitella, the comatose girl – she is not dead, she’s jut like a pupa, or tick, waiting to brush onto the right pants-leg in order to be reborn – comes from. And in the decomposition of his diseased body, the bile sliding out of his naso-gastric tube, could not but be inherent the utter opposite: reproductive fluids seeping from vaginas, from penises, appearing on walls, sticking to your shoes, dripping off fish,, until all that’s left, or necessary, of a person is the creamy residue they leave on your bedspread. The Dante? I thought it would be a nice kick in the face of Piero and the whole male canon to have a woman, looking like a Jewish boy, playing Dante Alighieri; a naked, genital-less girl playing the sought-for Beatrice; New York City the Inferno; a Brazilian crazy-woman in Carnival outfit as the guide, Virgil; and suburban Connecticut as Paradise.

Here’s my translation of the Dante citations in the film:

  1. In the middle of the walk of our life, I found myself in a dark wood where the straight way was lost.
  2. Through me one goes into the suffering city. Through me one goes into eternal pain. Through me one goes among the lost. Abandon all hope, you who enter.
  3. I emerged from the sacred wave, remade as new plants are. Renewed with new leaves. Pure and ready to rise to the stars.