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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.
Quentin Crisp is a unique Godsend. His acidic wit and unique originality are foremost in this piece. The cinematic construction of this piece is brilliant! It is ever-flowing, constantly entertaining, and wonderfully colorful, with respect to the characters he shares his life with! The naturally occurring characters are major players throughout. Take a trip through the 70's and enjoy the rare, bent wisdom of the first "Queen" to emigrate to the States. Quentin Crisp is a rare, brilliant, marvellous human being! It is a pleasure to follow his daily travails and know him, somewhat internally, as we watch him move throughout NYC. Highly recommended to those who are Gay, as well as to those who adore wise, old folks who see the world in a wonderfully different way!
In a rude, harsh world, it is hard to overrate the value of someone as witty, generous, kind and genteel as the beloved, late Quentin Crisp. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for this movie. If you were lucky enough to spend time with him or see his one-man show, which he started around age 70 and was filmed in 1979, you will already have gained more than "Resident Alien" has to offer. The movie opens with thrilling, teasingly macabre music and visuals, but from then on, it falls somewhat flat. Too much of it focuses on his commentators - and the director repeats some shots as if he thought repetition would work for him just because it worked for Mr. Crisp. Fran Lebowitz is never to be missed, but for newcomers to Crisperanto, there is not quite enough of the man himself and his speeches to make them fall in love as I did long before the movie. >
Quentin Crisp (formerly Dennis Pratt), in the process of regaining his virginity, has created an inimitable persona. "Substance is ephemeral, style is eternal" epitomizes his existence, which in conventional terms is ghastly, but which under his touch becomes magical. This movie is the perfect vehicle for displaying the intellectual vigor and keen wit of one of the sharpest minds alive. Easily at home with whomever he encounters, he generously dishes out his presence to any who asks. Could he possibly do otherwise? The quintessentially worldly naif is wonderfully presented, as the modest camera follows his daily round, homely domestic detail through gorgeous partying. No voice-over here, just a simple portrayal of a person truly alive. One wishes Quentin Crisp could go on forever, as at the age of 90 he seems very likely to do. A real gem of documentary moviemaking.
I went into the Berlinale Screening this year, without any prior
knowledge of what the movie was about (or better of whom it was about).
I didn't even know it was a documentary. Both things will be made
pretty clear after the first minutes. And although some might feel
appalled by the main protagonist here (or his sexuality), no one can
say that this guy (woman?) wasn't entertaining.
When Bruce Springsteen dedicates a song to you, "An Englishman in New York", which is a fact that I also didn't know, before watching this film, then there must be something about you. As charismatic as he/she may be and counting the fact, that you won't be offended (although I can say, that I'm glad that there isn't anything too offensive shown in this documentary, which is a nice thing), there are still quite a few flaws.
The pacing is one thing, which also leads to the editing. Quite some scenes, get repeated, a few things/scenes seem redundant and look like their only purpose is to fill time, this character study, could be much better. Especially if you consider the fact, how controversial this "drag queen" once was ... Not a bad documentary, but a missed opportunity then
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