At a casino, an unnamed woman leans over to Vivian, who’s scoping out the slot machines, and says that if one doesn’t play, one doesn’t win. Take that as the mantra of Desert Hearts, which advocates risk and consciousness in tandem as the only means to overcome the cold, repressive hand of so-called normative thought

— Clayton Dillard, Slant Magazine

Desert Hearts

Film • Nov 21

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This film is a part of our OUT Here series.

With a special performance by singer-songwriter Elaine Townsend.

Director: Donna Deitch

Donna Deitch’s swooning and sensual first film, Desert Hearts was groundbreaking upon its 1986 release: a love story about two women, produced and directed by a woman. In the 1959-set film, an adaptation of a beloved novel by Jane Rule, straitlaced East Coast professor Vivian Bell arrives in Reno to file for divorce, but winds up catching the eye of someone new, the younger free spirit Cay (Patricia Charbonneau), touching off a slow seduction that unfolds against the breathtaking desert landscape. With smoldering chemistry between its two leads, an evocative jukebox soundtrack, and vivid cinematography by Robert Elswit, Desert Hearts beautifully exudes a sense of tender yearning and emotional candor.

Elaine Townsend has performed at concerts including the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and has opened for acts such as David Byrne and Indigo Girls. A Columbia native, Townsend continues to delight audiences with her passionate songs and energetic shows. Performing Songwriter described Townsend’s work as: “the perfect balance between soulful intensity and understated humor”.

Support provided by:

SC Equality PAC
Famously Hot South Carolina Pride
South Carolina Gay + Lesbian Business Guild
Burnette Shutt & McDaniel, PA
Darryl Cooper
John Lucas
Robert Keenan and Brian Chen
Lula Drake
Dr. Ed Madden and Bert Easter
Larry Hembree and Joe Hudson

1985. USA. 96 min. Rated R.