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Marcel, one of eight portraits in the series Bearded Ladies by Rosamond Norbury.
Bearded Ladies, a wonderful film about the life and work of Rosamond Norbury, a renowned West Coast photographer, opened in September in Vancouver and gave me, for the first time in my adult life (I am a confessed straight white male of a certain age), the surprising sense that it might after all be fun to act like a man. The world of appearances, which is to say the world as it is, provides the multifarious subject of Norbury’s camera, which is often focused on cowboys and drag queens: what is especially moving in this movie is the transformation or metamorphosis of the appearance of several women of several ages and backgrounds by the application of facial hair, makeup and a change of clothing: a simple formula with profound consequences. The transformations take place slowly as the movie unfolds in a marvellous tapestry of faces, bodies, places, talk and laughter. The topics of the movie include gender and identity and their transmutation and in its exuberance the film reminds us, in the words of Hannah Arendt, that “we are of the world and not merely in it; we, too, are appearances by virtue of arriving and departing, of appearing and disappearing; and while we come from a nowhere, we arrive well equipped to deal with whatever appears to us and to take part in the play of the world.” See this film. Brilliantly directed by Sharon McGowan.