Review: ‘Venus of Mars’

The sort of inherently colorful wedlock that might tempt "Jerry Springer"-type tabloid exploitation is granted respectful, insightful treatment in Emily Goldberg's "Venus of Mars." Likeable if lengthy docu about a punk couple approaching their 20th anniversary -- she an English professor, he now a rock-band-fronting transgender person -- sees love and mutual compromise triumph over dramatic conflict.

The sort of inherently colorful wedlock that might tempt “Jerry Springer”-type tabloid exploitation is granted respectful, insightful treatment in Emily Goldberg’s “Venus of Mars.” Likeable if lengthy docu about a punk couple approaching their 20th anniversary — she an English professor, he now a rock-band-fronting transgender person — sees love and mutual compromise triumph over dramatic conflict. Content is perhaps too outre (the musicians play semi-nude) to snare pubcaster dates, but pic should travel far on gay fest circuit.

“Venus” nee Steve Grandell and wife Lynette have a life that’s one part home-owning Midwestern conventionality, one part anything-but. They met in 8th grade, married at 23, endured depression and financial dependency as his artistic endeavors proved less than lucrative. Real crisis, however, followed his decision to begin cross-dressing, grow breasts (via hormone treatment) and live as “Venus” full-time — a bit more than the articulate Lynette bargained for. Glam/punk/metal unit All the Pretty Horses (whose drummer is also transgender) are shown in flamboyant perfs; back-and-forth between those and domestic scenes grows repetitious after a while. Still, subjects are ingratiating, and the package, including excerpts from Venus’ animation and experimental films) lively.

Venus of Mars

Production

An Emily Goldberg/Media Gratification production. Produced by Emily Goldberg. Directed, edited by Emily Goldberg.

Crew

Camera (color, DV), Matt Ehling; music, Venus. Reviewed at San Francisco Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, June 25, 2004. Running time: 110 MIN.

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