Thursday, June 18, 2009

An Englishman in New York

Englishman in NYThursday, June 18, 7:00 pm, Castro Theatre, ENGL18C
5 bells

Thirty-four years ago, Quentin Crisp was intro­duced to a worldwide audience by the film The Naked Civil Servant, illuminating his life of openly flamboyant homo­sexuality. John Hurt, whom young­er audiences will recognize as everyone from Mr. Ollivander, purveyor of magic wands to Harry Potter, to Chancellor Sutler, the über-villain of V for Ven­detta, played Crisp in a break­through performance that earned him a BAFTA award for best actor. Hurt returns to the role, picking up Crisp's story where the first film left off, with the newly famous "civil servant" moving to New York City.

Naked Civil SvtI remember seeing The Naked Civil Servant when it was broadcast on PBS in the 1970's, although I didn't yet identify with the central figure — probably best for my odds of surviving puberty in Dallas, Texas. The sequel, though, picks up shortly before the time I my­self was living near New York City as a college stu­dent, just beginning my coming-out process. Where the first film dealt with Quentin Crisp as a gadfly in the London of the 1930's to early 1970's, bucking the ubi­quitous pressure to conform to hetero­sexual norms, the sequel focuses more on his "fish out of water" experience among the post-Stone­wall gay culture of New York. Some­one as eccentric as Quentin Crisp is not fated to truly fit in anywhere, it seems.

John Hurt's performance is as breathtaking as his inauguration of the role, and indeed director Richard Laxton said he could not have imagined par­ti­ci­pating with anyone other than Hurt in the lead role. The supporting cast was fabulous as well, rounding out a worthy opening film for the Frameline fes­ti­val. Definitely a MUST SEE.

An Englishman in New York, dir. Richard Laxton, USA, 2009, 74 minutes.

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