An Englishman in New York (2009) Poster

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8/10
Wonderful film!
borrelli2 May 2009
Saw this film at the Tribeca Film Festival in NYC and was deeply impressed. A loving, yet honest, look at Quentin Crisp in his later years in New York. John Hurt just IS Quentin Crisp in this role. It's amazing how accustomed we can be to bad acting as a norm until you see a performance like this and are suddenly reminded of how it's really done. Supporting cast is equally effective (how can they not be when you've got Cynthia Nixon and Swoosie Kurtz) with a massive standout being Denis O'Hare. Beautiful understated effective performance. More than simply biographical, it offers many social subjects for consideration in context - queer-on-queer prejudice, appropriate responses to AIDS in the 1980's, and much much more. It's a really good film, and well worth seeking out for just the acting alone. John Hurt is just perfect.
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10/10
The Harlequin Has the Last Laugh
Richard Buller24 October 2009
It is not necessary to have seen John Hurt's previous portrayal of Quentin Crisp in "The Naked Civil Servant" to appreciate this new film, but it is interesting to consider the subtle but different tones of each. The first was a cotton-candy confection that delighted on its own terms in spite of being based upon Quentin's much more somber autobiography. The current film is also sweet, but it incorporates some of the more serious issues of Quentin's later life, namely his seemingly indifferent, cavalier response to AIDS and how he dealt with growing old. Quentin was misunderstood in life because people, gay and straight, viewed him as a harlequin; but, anyone who has had the pleasure of reading his books, which this film curiously barely mentions, knows that he was a sober, ferocious intellect who, while flamboyant in approach and appearance, was a product of his time and came to us as a famous person, late in life, inevitably possessing, in the 1970's, '80's, and '90's, at least some of the Edwardian notions that informed his youth in the 1920's and '30's.

This film achieves the formidable task of presenting Quentin both as he appeared publicly and as he thought privately. One can only imagine how difficult it must have been to construct the script. It was inspired to have utilized the framework of Quentin's relationships with various people upon which to construct the biography. By showcasing Quentin's friendships with a literary figure (his friend from "Christopher Street" magazine), an AIDS figure (the young, anguished painter), and a performing artist, the film reflects important facets of his personality and helps to illuminate the sometimes perplexing concept of the world according to Crisp or what he in life famously termed "Crisperanto." Quentin's dialog in the film may sound epigrammatic to some; but, that is how the gentleman actually spoke, and he had a great deal to say.

These considerations are perilously academic, however. What is important is that the film is, in and of itself, magnificent. One is tempted to observe that John Hurt does Quentin better than did Quentin himself. It is difficult to take one's eyes off of this intricately prepared, compelling actor. How astonishing are those scenes that show Hurt as Quentin: playing Queen Elizabeth I in a film, waxing ruefully upon the ravages of aging; as he really was, in his tiny apartment, hair down, balding, elderly, alone; tilting his head back, upon theater stages, in cafés, or while simply walking down the street, to achieve that rollicking laugh that so soothed and beguiled. Because portraying Quentin is by definition flashy, Hurt at first may appear mannered and theatrical; but, if one watches closely, he will realize that the actor knows precisely when less is more. His performance is, in fact, careful. It is vigorous but not exaggerated, and the effect is remarkable.

Those who approach "An Englishman in New York" armed with old political animosities from the Act Up era are missing out, really, because, as troubling as Quentin seemed in his attitude towards AIDS, he did try to atone for it, in his own way (even people with huge and gracious hearts can sometimes find it impossible to say "I'm sorry"), and because he blazed so uniquely and with such genius in innumerable other areas. As a social commentator, essayist, novelist, film critic, philosopher, public speaker, and most unlikely of fashion plates, Quentin Crisp had no peer. For better or worse, he remains a gay -- and literary -- icon. This film does justice to this totally unique man both as a legend and as he was at heart, a caring, emotional creature whose ultimate love and humility will likely outlive the hats, scarves, and tinted hair that memorably punctuated his public persona.
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Excellent!
Percy Dubois5 May 2009
This movie is worth seeing when it comes out on television. Everything about the film works, and I do mean everything! Brian Fillis certainly did his homework and scripted a show that holds one's interest, and will intrigue anyone who is unfamiliar with Quentin Crisp. Granted any made-for-television movie has limits of what can be written and shared, often dictated by time slots and network requirements, but this movie has surface and detail and informs. Brilliantly written and acted! John Hurt's performance is absolutely phenomenal and as otherworldly as Quentin Crisp was. Denis O'Hare's acting ability is fully on display throughout the film, providing a touching portrayal of someone who loved and cared for Quentin Crisp. Jonathan Tucker is a star and is spectacular in his role. Swoosie Kurtz and Cynthia Nixon provide colorful portrayals of two women in Quentin Crisp's New York life. Could not ask for a better cast. Definitely, see the film when it appears on television!
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10/10
A great piece of work with so much to say
ginda200030 December 2009
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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10/10
Quentin Crisp: A Unique Philosopher
gradyharp12 September 2010
AN ENGLISHMAN IN NEW YORK is a exceptionally well done film about the last years of the infamous Quentin Crisp (born Denis Charles Pratt, 25 December 1908 - 21 November 1999), an English writer and raconteur - one who is skilled at regurgitating funny anecdotes he heard someone else say first. Writer Brian Fillis has provided a highly polished script for director Richard Laxton, the two thus being able to bring to life this icon of homosexuality in the 1970s who, after publication of his memoir, The Naked Civil Servant, came to America to do 'speaking engagements', better described as cabaret comedy/philosophy routines. He dressed effeminately because that is the way he saw himself, and he adapted to life in New York with a joy that made people notice and respect him finally.

John Hurt brings a brilliant luster to his role as the strange but lovely elderly Crisp who sits before audiences and says what comes to his mind. He is befriended by Christopher Street editor Phillip Steel (Dennis O'Hare) who gives him work as a movie critic, noticed by promoter Connie Clausen (Swoosie Kurtz) who schedules him heavily in nightclubs as an act, shy painter Patrick Angus (Jonathan Tucker) whom he champions among galleries, and kooky performance artist Penny Arcade (Cynthia Nixon). At the height of his popularity he makes a comments about AIDS being a 'fad', something that unites gays with a disease that Crisp claims is just what the straight public wants, and his popularity among his audience wanes. He discovers Angus is stricken with the disease and mourns his too soon death, and is sheltered by Steel as he grows into a fragile very elderly 91 year old. Throughout the film Hurt glows as the strange but somehow lovable Crisp, showing us all a side of a man who has been too often dismissed as a weird one. This is a very tender film, complemented by a first class cast, and one that deserves very wide attention.

Grady Harp
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9/10
You can take the Man out of England, but ...
PocketMan10 January 2011
John Hurt inhabits this character completely. This is not a sequel to The Naked Civil Servant, it is a continuation of the story of Quentin Crisp.

Quentin Crisp was a flamboyant and insightful 'homosexual' who, after spending the first 73 years of his life in not-so-gay, olde England, moved to New York and was embraced by the art and literary communities there. He spoke in quotable soundbites that challenged the world's assumptions, and people's perceptions of each other through the stories he told.

His live performances were more of Q and A between himself and the audience, as he never failed to provide an opinion about any idea presented to him.

This film fearlessly bases it's integrity on John Hurt's performance and he doesn't let anyone down. Having played Crisp previously in a film based on Crisp's own book, The Naked Civil Servant, Hurt "leaves nothing unpacked" in his rendition of Crisp. When I think of Crisp now, I see John Hurt's face.

Story-wise, I found this film very informative about a less-public time in the life of a courageously defiant man who refused to let society keep him in the closet, both in England and the U.S. Finally I got some clarity on why Crisp fell out of favour during the beginning of the AIDS crisis. It's unfortunate that Crisp's analysis of AIDS as a "fad" turned out to be true in some ways. Perhaps the disease isn't a fad, but certainly people's fear and behavioural changes were temporary, as we now see in increasing infection rates of young people. If only his insights weren't treated as simplistic in the midst of panic, or if Crisp had had the fortitude (at 75) to lead a change in attitudes, the fight against this disease might have followed a different trajectory. Unfortunately that was not Crisp's role to play.

If you enjoyed The Naked Civil Servant, you will likely find this film equally interesting. Hurt is remarkable, and Crisp's perspectives are still relevant.
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8/10
John and Quentin, together again
robert-temple-128 December 2009
Quentin Crispe was one of the most important people of the second half of the twentieth century. If he had heard me say that, he would have laughed as uproariously as it was possible for him to do, by which I mean give a severe chuckle. What do I mean by saying it? I mean that he was an individual to the furthest and truest extent, in a world made dull by a stifling mass conformity. In addition, he was brilliantly witty and extraordinarily intelligent and wise. He always claimed to be a homosexual, but my wife and I always suspected that he may have died a virgin, as he was sublimely asexual in person and the idea that he might ever have been physical with anyone seemed frankly inconceivable. Quentin was above all a narcissist, and proud of it. He was driven into narcissism by the sameness of the human environment, and I believe that if he had been an animal (assuming that he had been allowed to be also articulate), he would have been much happier, because animals do not all look alike, whereas humans deceive one another by all having two arms, two legs, faces, etc., so that they have the illusion that they all somehow have something to do with one another, which they do not. We were fortunate to know Quentin in both his London and New York environments, though we saw him rarely. People who missed his amazing one-man show in a large London theatre years ago can never know what they missed, because it was one of the most scintillating live performances possible to see anywhere at any time. It was all on the theme of 'personal style', a subject which was a favourite for me to discuss with him. (He was somewhat jealous that I had known Tallulah, the one person in the world he most wished he had met, and we often recurred to the subject of Tallulah as the Queen of Style). John Hurt has done a wonderful service to posterity in capturing Quentin on film almost to perfection. He has mastered every detail of his mannerisms, his movements, his walk, the turn of his head, his gestures, his manner of speaking, and his facial expressions. (The only thing missing is the purple tint which Quentin added to his hair.) It was so eerie seeing John sitting there in that lower Manhattan diner. I could just see Quentin eating his melted cheese on toast (he loved boring 'school food'). This is one of the greatest acting achievements of our time, in terms of portraying a real life character. My wife and I hosted a dinner party many years ago for both John and Quentin, who did not see that much of each other, and it was so intriguing listening to them bantering back and forth, which they did somewhat shyly. The photos of them were marvellous, with them reflecting each other's glow and their arms around one another. John Hurt has never had as many opportunities to be the lead actor in films as he should have had. That is because, except in SINFUL DAVEY in his youth perhaps, he was never a natural 'romantic lead'. The inevitable nature of popular story lines generally condemns many actors and actresses to supporting roles, no matter how brilliant they are. And so it is that John has made something like 150 films because everybody wants him, but has never been Brad Pitt (for which I am sure he is eternally grateful), though to judge from his attraction to women, you would imagine that John might secretly have been Brad Pitt after all in ways best left to the imagination. Drollery has always been a specialty of John's, and that is remarkably attractive as a trait. And so we come to the film. Trying to write a script like that is no easy task, and the writer has done a good job without being particularly brilliant. The lighting was not that good at times, and the direction was good without being brilliant either. The trouble with falling short in the production itself is that a subject like Quentin demands the best. However, we must be grateful for what we got. The film features a spectacularly good performance by Jonathan Tucker, who was so brilliant in THE DEEP END (2001; see my review). He plays the young gay artist Patrick Angus, whom Quentin befriended, with great sensitivity and intensity. Denis O'Hare is admirable as Quentin's friend Phillip Steele. Rather too much is made in the film of Quentin's unfortunate flip remark about AIDS being a fad, which landed him in a lot of trouble. There is no doubt that Quentin was the victim of hysteria and was excessively criticised for a mere passing witticism (or what was intended as such, however stupid it may have been). But one very touching scene of a huge butch gay man attacking Quentin for it in the street and then sobbing uncontrollably about his dying boyfriend really brings home to us the mass grief associated with this terrible disease, and how wrong a stray remark can be when it wounds those who are suffering deeply. After all, who of us has not lost a friend to AIDS? One reason why this film is not as exciting a film as one would have wished is that Quentin was a quiet and subdued person. Despite his carefully designed gauche appearance, Quentin was remarkably demure. Perhaps we are all a bit too jaded and expect too many thrills in movies. One thrill which I wish everyone had had the opportunity to enjoy was to know Quentin Crispe. This film goes some way towards filling that gap, and we must be grateful to it, and to John Hurt for his magnificent efforts to bring Quentin to life as vividly as if he were really there in front of the camera.
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10/10
Loved It
bob_bear28 December 2009
10 out of 10 simply for appearing on prime time ITV. Frankly, I'm astonished. Gays shown in a positive light but yet in all their complexity and diversity? How shocking!!

Quentin was a hero of sorts. The way this teleplay crafts a drama around his impressive one-liners is dazzaling. Not your usual mainstream fayre. No beginning/middle/end. Just a fabulous/ordinary life celebrated.

John Hurt's performance is first rate. He must have thought long and hard about the script before doing this project ---following as it does a triumphant original. All credit to him then, I loved it.
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lovely
Armand22 November 2012
bitter, profound, fascinating. story of a guru. like modern parable. a character. and a great performance. map of small things. and a great arena. seed of dark joy because the story of Quentin Crisp is out of categories. it seems be a fairy-tale, page of a history of homosexual freedom war, testimony about values and traces of Oscar Wilde style, a manifesto about reality behind illusions, a form of silent protest against ordinaries warm lies. each of this aspects is present in this movie. a film like definition of an air. or, only, circle of a small refuge garden. nothing else. only reflection about real nature of world. an old man in a large city. and its gestures, words, trips. as pieces of a lesson about yourself. or shadows of a continuous search of truth sense.
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6/10
Not another "Civil Servant"
Igenlode Wordsmith28 December 2009
This film was definitely superior to the BBC's new "Day of the Triffids" adaptation (which was scheduled directly against it), but is not the dramatic equal of the original "Naked Civil Servant", with which it will inevitably be compared. I suspect the main cause of this is that the source material simply doesn't provide a lot of scope: when a story starts with its protagonist in his seventies and having finally gained acceptance and even celebrity, the time-span is inevitably somewhat short and there isn't a great deal more that can happen to him. Even in situations which could, and would, have been threatening to the younger Quentin Crisp, his elder statesman status effectively restricts the repercussions.

As a result, more or less the only 'plot event' of the film is the arrival of AIDS in New York, with even that seen largely through the effects on Crisp's career of a single dismissive quip (his reasoned attitude is that making too much of AIDS will only bolster public perception of homosexuals as disease-ridden outcasts, but this doesn't go down well among his target audience). Otherwise, "An Englishman in New York" consists largely of bons mots; little snippets of Crisp performing and delivering his famous lines, whether to an audience of one or to a small studio gathering.

That said, given the limitations of its material the film manages to pull off the difficult trick of its predecessor, presenting its deliberately flamboyant, over-the-top protagonist as a sympathetic human being whose pose we not only condone but find ourselves applauding. I generally shy away from 'gay issues', but find myself feeling here for the people he meets and the prejudice he encounters, both from them and on their behalf. In some ways, it is as hard to be a determinedly effeminate homosexual among the butch 'clones' of an out-of-the-closet New York as among the disapproving middle classes of pre-war England.

John Hurt does an excellent task in portraying the physical aging of the character, and of course it is a great bonus to have the same actor appearing in both films with a genuine generational time-lapse between them. It is just a truism that -- despite Quentin Crisp's much-repeated prediction that every year "things are going to get worse" -- happiness, as the proverb has it, simply doesn't make for such an enthralling story as do troubled times; and this is essentially a depiction of a man who has finally come to terms with the world, and it with him. As such it is well-meaning and pretty well executed, but not a particularly unmissable experience.

And inevitably it is less touching and less striking than its predecessor.
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