'To Die Like a Man'

It's some feat to make a full-on melodrama about drag queens with murderous children and junkie lovers tedious.

It’s some feat to make a full-on melodrama about drag queens with murderous children and junkie lovers tedious, but Portuguese helmer Joao Pedro Rodrigues manages it with “To Die Like a Man.” Like its lip-synching she-male heroine, pic channels ideas by other filmmakers’ (particularly Fassbinder and Almodovar) in a semi-interesting way, but criminally protracted running time of 138 minutes makes this a real drag. Product-hungry gay-themed fest circuit should provide hospice care before “Man” perishes in obscurity.

Aging drag artiste Tonia (Fernando Santos, not bad) is the queen of the club she’s been gigging at for years, but rising stars like Jenny (Jenny Larrue) threaten to dethrone her. At home, younger lover Rosario (Alexander David), an on-off junkie, would like Tonia to have a sex change, but at heart Tonia’s a good Catholic who thinks she should remain as God made her, although breast implants are kosher. A son (Chandra Malatitch) Tonia fathered years ago shows up, AWOL from the army after killing a man, but the plotline, like several others, leads nowhere. Too many scenes feature characters listening to music or singing whole songs. Lensing looks nice.

To Die Like a Man

Portugal - France

Production

A Rosa Filmes (Portugal)/Ad Vitam (France) production, with the support of the Portuguese Ministry of Culture, Instituto do Cinema e do Audiovisual, RTP, FICA, Eurimages, CNC. (International sales: Films Boutique, Berlin.) Produced by Maria Joao Sigalho. Co-producer, Judith Nora. Directed by Joao Pedro Rodrigues. Screenplay, Rodrigues, Rui Catalao, Joao Rui Guerra da Mata.

Crew

Camera (color), Rui Pocas; editors, Rui Mourao, Rodrigues; production designer, Rui Guerra da Mata; set designer, Fernando Areal; costumes, Patricia Doria. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Un Certain Regard), May 22, 2009. Original title: Morrer como um homem. Portuguese dialogue. Running time: 138 MIN.

With

Fernando Santos, Alexander David, Goncalo Ferreira de Almeida, Chandra Malatitch, Jenny Larrue, Cindy Scrash, Fernando Gomes, Miguel Loureiro, Andre Murracas.

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