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Attendant, The (1993)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

A middle-aged black attendant walks around the gallery in which he works. As patrons enter, the attendant searches their bags. While he goes about his work, he drifts into fantasies of himself singing opera in an almost empty theatre.

Outside the gallery, a younger white man, dressed in black leather, walks up the steps to the doors. The attendant searches his bag, and the pair make eye contact, aware of a mutual sexual attraction.

Time passes and visitors stroll round the gallery. One man looks at a painting depicting black slavery in 19th century Africa. At close of business, the attendant shuts the museum doors and sees the paintings come to life. The scenes now depicted in the 'living' paintings are fused with images of domination and homosexual desire.

The leather-clad man, who has remained in the gallery, removes a whip from his bag and beats the attendant, while a female cleaner listens through the walls from the next room. The attendant now takes his turn to whip the white man. The cleaner smiles and leaves.

At his home, the attendant prepares to leave for work, and is bid farewell by his wife, who is also the gallery cleaner. Once again, the attendant imagines himself singing in the theatre, while black and white angels fly around the auditorium. He finishes singing, and his wife applauds. The attendant takes a bow.