The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert meets La Traviata

Title:
The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert meets La Traviata
NFSA ID:
255515
Year:
1994
Category:
Access fees

After a drunken night at a pub in Broken Hill, the three drag artists – Mitzi (Hugo Weaving), Felicia (Guy Pearce) and Bernadette (Terence Stamp) – awake to find their bus defaced with an anti-gay slogan. They leave the city depressed and upset, but Felicia cheers the day by practicing her operatic miming on the roof of Priscilla, their bus.

The clip demonstrates the way The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert continually rebrands and iconizes itself -  and also seems obsessed with acting out popular culture. The film also draws on the conventions of musical comedy, where the performance of the songs themselves carry much of the narrative weight. 

This clip features three very different forms of music, beginning with choral music, then Trudy Richard's Jazzy rendition of 'Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man' - and, finally, opera by the great Italian composer Verdi.

Perhaps one of the most recognized moments of the film (and indeed Australian cinema more generally) is the final part of the clip featuring Felicia (Guy Pearce), dressed in drag, miming the lbera from Verdi's La Traviata - all on top of a bus driving through the Australian desert.

This humorous sequence embodies the world of opera, and particularly the upper reaches of the soprano voice, as excess and as exhilarating performance. But it also functions beyond aesthetic embellishment. La Traviata, connects - ironically and symbolically  - to the story at hand.  The Opera centres on a courtesan loved for her body and her passion for life - a courtesan who was destined to die alone, outside the safety of mainstream society at the time.

The music of La Traviata could reflect fears concerning the film's marginalized central characters - hinting, perhaps, of Broken Hill's homophobic attacks played out in the previous scene.

Production company:
Latent Image Productions and Specific Films
Director and writer:
Stephan Elliott
Producers:
Al Clark and Michael Hamlyn