At age 73, writer and melancholy master of the bon mot, Quentin Crisp (1908-1999), became an Englishman in New York. Rossiter's camera follows Crisp about the streets of Manhattan, where ...
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At age 73, writer and melancholy master of the bon mot, Quentin Crisp (1908-1999), became an Englishman in New York. Rossiter's camera follows Crisp about the streets of Manhattan, where Crisp seems very much at home, wearing eye shadow, appearing on a makeshift stage, making and repeating wry observations, talking to John Hurt (who played Crisp in the autobiographical TV movie, "The Naked Civil Servant"), and dining with friends. Others who know Crisp comment on him, on his life as an openly gay man with an effeminate manner, and on his place in the history of gays' social struggle. The portrait that emerges is of one wit and of suffering. Written by
I appear in this feature-length documentary about the daily New York life of the pioneer English gay activist, Quentin Crisp, and Quentin was my dear and valued friend, so I am not, perhaps fully objective about it. While the movie is unique and often very entertaining and informative, I have some regrets about it. Quentin was one of the most life-loving, life-giving people I ever met. After his horrible childhood, youth, and maturity in London, where he was scorned, beaten, and harassed for being "effeminate" (as beautifully depicted in the dramatic bio-film about him,"The Naked Civil Servant"), in his old age he became famous and beloved in his adopted home, New York City. He reveled in the attention, affection, and acceptance he achieved as a media celebrity. He accepted all of the many invitations he received, and enlivened them all with his lifetime supply of carefully-phrased, brightly-polished epigrams. All his great qualities are on display in "Resident Alien," and we who loved him are grateful that director Jonathan Nossiter has preserved them. However, Mister Nossiter is ambitious and heterosexual, and could not help seeing Quentin's uncritical contentment in his round of often rather trivial events, and his self-chosen solitary home life in a tiny one-room flat, as--how shall I put it?--sadder than his public life was glad. Mister Nossiter has, of course, the right to his own viewpoint, and he presents it extremely well. But he employs some "politically correct" commentators to reinforce his negative views, and, alas, gives equal time to none of us who might have given very different interpretations of our wonderful friend's activities and value. So, while I heartily recommend this educational and technically inventive movie-monument to a great person and great personality, I cannot but wish that all its viewers had experienced personally the much more positive person and personality I knew.
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