Hooker With a Heart of Pressed Tin: Chastity
The Austin Gay & Lesbian International Film Festival turns 15
"She was born in a wagon of a travelin' show, her mama used to dance for the money they'd throw ..." Yes, it's pre-nose-job Cher in her absolutely wretched 1969 dramatic debut, Chastity, which screens at 11:45pm on Friday, Aug. 23 -- the night before Cher will be singing her heart out at the Frank Erwin Center. Cher plays a sullen and surly hitchhiking runaway with a heart of pressed tin, and though what she does with her grating voice and punk-ass demeanor might be misconstrued as acting, do not be fooled -- she is simply a marionette in the hands of producer Sonny "Svengali" Bono (whom many suspect was also the never-heard-of-before and never-heard-from-again director Alessio de Paola). Chastity is a disturbed young woman who hits the road to escape her dreary, unhappy life, and finds more dreariness and unhappiness. In the turgid and lugubrious script, she takes her anger out on men by picking them up, leading them on, and then "not letting them get anything." She works as a prostitute without ever having to give up "the goods," and winds up in a Mexican whorehouse for a lesbian madam who would like Chastity to be something more than an employee. With a creepy introspective/philosophical voiceover narrative by Cher, Chastity is hippie-age BS, and you can definitely see the chanteuse's Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves period looming on the horizon. There are some who will dig deeply to find some merit to this film, but it should strictly be taken as what it is: pure camp -- meaning, of course, that it's hysterically funny while it tries desperately to be serious. Would you name your child after this? "Chastity ... pick her up if you dare." Indeed. -- Stephen MacMillan Moser
Chastity screens at 11:45pm, Aug. 23, at the Regal Metropolitan.