Self-distributed by its creators Ellen Turk and Andrew Weeks, SPLIT offers a melancholy post-mortem glimpse of Bronx-born transvestite model/entertainer/junkie International Chrysis.
Originally a kid named William who started dressing in glamorous drag while still a teen, Chrysis became a protege of Salvador Dali and a headliner of Manhattan's disco and cabaret scene. Sometimes referred to as the most beautiful "woman" in New York City (feminine pronouns are used throughout),
Chrysis died at age 39 in 1990, of cancer attributed to foul homebrew breast implants that incorporated everything from floor wax to bovine hormones.
Turk and Weeks display extensive, not always flattering footage of Chrysis incorporated into a Wellesian montage of reminiscences by friends. And just as nobody could fully define Charles Foster Kane, SPLIT's subject remains elusive.
Chrysis apparently never gave the same personal history twice. In reference to her unhappy childhood, the best tall tale was that she was a son of nudists who disowned her for wearing dresses. With so few hard facts available, the filmmakers take the impressionistic route, culling memorials and
generalizations from talking heads who aren't even identified until the closing credits. The approach assumes that the viewer is already familiar with NYC drag culture and its denizens; even the cause of Chrysis's demise is only vaguely hinted. The film's press material make a more informative
read, with notes that the drag queen's career included roles on TV's "Saturday Night Live," movies like the cop drama Q & A (1990), and a late-in-life stint as a sort of self-help guru--none of which is apparent onscreen (any clips from NBC probably would have wiped out the documentary's budget).
Not so much SPLIT as splintered, this secondhand bio feels incomplete. (Adult situations.)
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- Released: 1993
- Review: Self-distributed by its creators Ellen Turk and Andrew Weeks, SPLIT offers a melancholy post-mortem glimpse of Bronx-born transvestite model/entertainer/junkie International Chrysis. Originally a kid named William who started dressing in glamorous drag wh… (more)