Without a shred of self-pity the transgender heroine of this Chilean nugget, a nameless aging firecracker who has her wild fun and beats it (the post-party depression) too, takes off on journey of self discovery, rather a discovery of selfishness when she runs into a heterosexual activist during a police raid in a gay bar.
Carlos (Leonardo Ortizgris) is attractive sinister and dangerous. Just the thrill that our transgender heroine needs. What follows is a game of cat and mouse between a gender-challenged woman who doesn’t know what she wants and a much younger man who knows exactly what he wants.
For those expecting raunchy sex between the Queen and the Stud, there is reason for much disappointment. My Tender Matador is not that kind of a film. It doesn’t dwell on fleshly pleasure. When the trans-woman finally pleasures Carlos sexually, he is fast asleep, unresponsive.
The thoughtful study of desolations opens up the polemics on the exploiter and the exploited with the same mood of elegiac wistfulness that we saw in Aparna Sen’s 36 Chowringhee Lane where two young students sucked up to an emotionally vulnerable old anglo-Indian woman, milking her emotions for their own gain.
Here in My tender Matador it is clear to everyone that the trans-woman is being exploited. Even she knows it. But to be needed by a man who is desired by every woman he knows is a big upper for our unnamed heroine, a dark mass of unstoppable desires which she never allows to get the better of her, even in her weakest moments.
All credit for giving us a woman of ambiguous sexuality who is not the least ambiguous in her thought processes about love lust and longing goes to the lad actor. Alfredo Castro’s performance is a master class in melancholic self-abrogation. The magnificent Spanish actor plays the transgender as a woman denuding her claims to self-fulfilment to play a sacrificial lamb to a man she only knows for what he wants her to know.
As Carlos’ motives become clearer, the heroine becomes increasingly politicized. This is Chile under the draconian Pinochet in 1986. No citizen has any rights, least of all a self-proclaimed trans-gender woman so militant in her individuality and self-assertion that the regime, on the prowl against all renegades, would suffocate her voice without a second thought.
In the central role Alfredo Castro is all things humane and empathetic. The marginalized queer woman never plunges into self-pity, never seeks recourse in the “good old days”. She knows that good or bad old or new, life for a certain sections of society remains wretchedly incomplete.
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