Following the success of his television biography 'The Naked Civil Servant' Quentin Crisp is invited to America to lecture on How To Be Happy, and falls in love with New York's more permissive ambiance. Agent Connie Clausen enables him to be a 'resident alien', writing film reviews and dispensing words of wisdom. Curious about but impervious to trends, he describes AIDS as a "fad, nothing more", actually to divert heterosexual anger but he is misinterpreted and reviled by many gays. A return to popularity occurs when he helps Patrick Angus, a young, AIDS-afflicted artist attain fame for his paintings and his healthy cynicism is marketed by performance artist Penny Arcade, putting him back in the limelight. Poor health causes him to refuse a lecture tour of England but he gives a triumphant final audience at a gay club in Tampa. A postscript informs that he died at the age of 91. Written by
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A continuation concerning the latter part of his life in New York City during the 1980s and 1990s. See more »
Chat Show Host:
His extraordinary story, The Naked Civil Servant, which was broadcast last night has been described as the triumph of the resolute individual against the faceless multitude. He is Mr. Quentin Crisp.
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This is a fascinating film on so many levels, but most notably (from a production point of view) because Hurt is reprising a role he played 35 years previously as a much younger actor. What makes the piece even more perfect is it picks up where the other film (The Naked Civil Servant) left off.
Quentin Crisp the one time naked life model and civil servant has gained celebrity due to his ITV film 'The Naked Civil Servant'. He is given the opportunity to fly to New York for one month to give talks; however once he arrives in the big apple he falls in love with a city which seems to offer him everything he ever dreamed of. Quentin quickly gains residency as 'a legal alien'. However, he faces some hard lessons about the vastly changing face of not only public homosexuality but also the world in general.
My opinion of an Englishman in New York is it's a flawless piece of work. It's rare a film can deliver such a sharp, but honest message which is relevant to today's society. In the original 1975 piece, Quentin was abused and attacked by 'hetrosexual' society not only for being gay but being different. In an Englishman in New York everything has flipped. The heterosexual world seems (on the whole) to adore him and be accepting of his eccentric and overtly homosexual persona. However, now his victimisation comes from the gay community who are excluding their own if they do not fit the very strict criteria of what they deem 'attractive'. Once upon a time Quentin was celebrated in the gay community as a brave pioneer of human rights. Now he's seen as a ghastly old queen who represents every gay stereotype a homosexual man is fighting against.
Hurt plays Crisps exasperation to this new rejection with perfect understated brilliance. It becomes very apparent that Quentin was fighting the cause for individuality and the colonisation of the gay community was not actually what he wanted. He seemed to long for a world where every individual was accepted on their own merits and not because they fit criteria of a certain group. WHen Quentin discovers the (seemingly) universal ambition of gay man is to be a caricatured clone of the male heterosexual stereotype you can almost hear his eyes rolling. It's also saddening to watch the world speed by Crisp in fifth gear, as he tries to get his head around the aggressive "fad" that is AIDS. This lesson being a particularly poignant one he has to learn.
Even after seeing 'The Naked Civil Servant' (20 years ago) I had always seen Quentin Crisp as representative of tolerance toward homosexuals. After seeing 'An Englishman in New York' I now see him as someone far more important. Crisp represents tolerance toward individuality and our right to be whoever we want to be without fear of exclusion. As the song says "If Manners maketh man as someone said, Then he's the hero of the day, It takes a man to suffer ignorance and smile Be yourself no matter what they say".
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