Issues & Themes: 
  • Cinema 5

An upbeat friendship melodrama about Robin, a queer hairdresser, and his roommate Liza, who suffers from schizophrenia, Outrageous! deals with the theme of female impersonation with a sincere authenticity, unlike many films on the subject that focus on the fictional nature of the act and on its performance. A look inside Robin’s day-to-day struggle to find his place in society, Outrageous!, even with its wild collection of costumes and its vivid colours, is more interested in the interiority of its characters than with their outside appearance. One of the rare Canadian film of the era to have a theatrical run (in New York), Outrageous! received many good reviews in trade journals during the late seventies but somehow the film never quite entered the Canadian canon.

The Canadian sleeper success story of the 1970s, Benner's feature merited three pieces in Cinema Canada, a rave, a pan, and a production story. John Locke’s rave (1977) began with an anecdote about a New York moviegoer’s praise for its non-national generic spectacle value and then led in to a dissection of its un-Canadian Canadianness:

“It’s the best show you’ve ever seen.” This is not a typical reaction to Canadian films … Outrageous! … is the best Canadian narrative film I have seen, and forgetting about nationalism for a moment, it is a very good film indeed in 1977 international terms … The acting is so uniformly excellent that it is positively “un-Canadian” … Outrageous! is un-Canadian in this specific sense: all the performers say their lines in a believable fashion … Canadian films often seem to disguise their nationality. Actors and actresses never say “aye.” Canadian artifacts like money and license plates never appear … Outrageous! breaks these conventions usually followed by Canadian films looking for United States distribution, and it makes the broken conventions work in its favour… Thank you Richard Benner whoever you are, I have been waiting for years to see a really good Canadian narrative film.

From Thomas Waugh’s The Romance of Transgression (McGill-Queens, 2006).