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SXSW Film Festival Review: Folk Singer Suzanne Vega Emotionally Embodies Novelist Carson McCuller in ‘Lover, Beloved’

Innovative folk singer-songwriter Suzanne Vega has long been determined to showcase the importance of women breaking traditional boundaries and championing their independence. So she decided to adapt her acclaimed one-woman stage show about the life of celebrated 20th-century American novelist Carson McCullers for the big screen with the new emotionally gripping film, Lover, Beloved.

The biographical musical features tracks by the Grammy Award-winning Vega and Grammy and Tony Award-winning singer-songwriter-composer, Duncan Sheik. Vega also wrote and co-executive produced the movie, which was directed by Austin-based filmmaker, Michael Tully.

In the experimental blend of film, theater and music, Lover, Beloved follows Vega as she reinterprets two talks McCullers gave at the 92nd St. Y in New York City. During the first reinterpretation, which is set in 1941, the fillmmaker, impersonating the novelist, drinks her way through the lecture, revealing messy romances and illnesses. In the second talk, set 25 years later, McCullers confronts her mortality ass she reminisces about her novel and play, The Member of the Wedding.

The author also reflects on her twice failed marriage and romances of both sexes, ending on the philosophy and beliefs she forged with her husband. Despite her compassion, McCullers ponders whether she’s ultimately destined to solitude.

Lover, Beloved is giving an even wider audience the opportunity to embrace both women’s fierce female freedoms and intense artistic aesthetic. Through a stunning score that provides the dual perspectives of McCullers’ anticipated love and reflection on past intimacy, the tracks are a celebration of the transcendence of unconditional love that the writer and her characters endlessly longed for but never found.

Vega, who has long been fascinated not by McCullers’ life story and literary works, naturally brought her fellow entertainer’s determination to succeed in both her career and personal life, despite the obstacles she faced, to the screen. The musician-filmmaker effortlessly embodied the novelist’s relatable emotional struggles not only in the song lyrics that are featured in Lover, Beloved, but also her physical impersonation of her movements in her reinterpretations of her two notable lectures.

Vega’s gripping physical embodiment of McCullers throughout the screen adaptation was powerfully highlighted by the movie’s production designers, Lisa Laratta and Bart Magrum. While the singer’s interpretation of the author’s talks were set on a stage with sparse furniture, notable an antique lamp and night table that look as though they were transported from the mid-1900s, the stage’s set design subtly emphasizes the time period of McCullers’ original lectures.

Vega has once again proved her skilled resourcefulness and creative abilities as both a singer and storyteller with her ingenious new biographical musical, Lover, Beloved. Through her captivating, contemporary retelling of McCullers’ one-woman stage shows from the 20th-century, particularly through an emotionally relatable score and stellar physical impersonation, Vega emphasizes the importance of women breaking traditional boundaries and championing their independence in the movie.

Lover, Beloved had its world premiere in the Narrative Spotlight section at the SXSW Film Festival.

Grade: A-

Check out more of Karen Benardello’s articles.

Karen Benardello
Karen Benardellohttps://cinemadailyus.com
As a life-long fan of films and television shows, and an endless passion for writing, Karen Benardello decided to combine the two for a career. She graduated from New York's LIU Post with a B.F.A in Journalism, Print and Electronic in 2008. Karen has since been working in the press in New York City, including interviewing film and television casts and crews, writing movie and television news articles and reviewing films and televisions series. Some of her highlights include attending such local events as the Tribeca Film Festival, the New York Film Festival and New York Comic-Con, as well as traveling across North America to attend such festivals as the Sundance Film Festival, SXSW and the Toronto International Film Festival. She has been a member of the Women Film Critics Circle since 2012, and the New York Film Critics Online since 2019.


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