The 2009 Gay and Lesbian Film Fest:
An Englishman In New York!
By Nevin Jefferson
Cast: John Hurt, Cynthia Nixon, Denis O’Hare, Jonathan Tucker, Swoosie Kurtz
Director: Richard Laxton
Screenwriter: Brian Fillis
Producer: Amanda Jenks
Executive Producers: James Burstall, Susie Field, Joey Attawia
Co-Producer: Linda Moran, Rene Bastian, Victoria Goodall
Director of Photography: Yaron Orbach
Production Designer: Beth Mickle in Englishman In New York
The 14th Seattle Gay and Lesbian film Festival opened with “An Englishman In New York” a very powerful and epic telling of Quentin Crisp. He wasn’t your ordinary fruit,he was a gay proud man who wasn’t afraid to be himself and does just that. Even after being beaten numerous times. He became a voice of authority and the rhyme of reason for the gay world. This true to life story became alive on the screen with an extraordinary performance by John Hurt as the witty, prolific,influential gay pioneer who becomes an pop culture icon right before your eyes on screen. John Hurt’s performance is riveting,breath taking,and true to art form. The Englishman in New York opens with insightful barbs and the perspective of being who he is in true narration style. Crisp’s writing and performances provide much of the dialogue as he fulfills his destiny in becoming a raconteur. William Hurt plays it with poise and charm from the age of 70 to 90’s.
The movie opens as Quentin is flying high on international fame with “The Naked Civil Servant and lands low in New York. In one of the opening scenes, Quentin is walking through the streets of the city in his full splendor. He’s complimented by a big and beautiful middle aged Black woman who hails praises of love,respect,and admiration. He is genuinely touched by this and it shows as he takes off with more sashay into his hips giving new meaning to swishing in the streets. As New York unfolds on the screen Quentin unfolds with it in the streets. Quentin absorbs New York and New York absorbs him. It’s match made in heaven when Quentin is granted a resident alien status based on his unique qualities. The Englishman and The City become true loves of diversity and acceptance with a sense of ownership.
After performing his One-Man show “How to be a Happy Person” he’s approached by Connie Clausen superbly played by Swoosie Kurtz. She tells him that she wants to make him a star launches his career in an off-Broadway one-man show. The two begin a strong,mutual,friendship that flourishes with success as Connie gets him on every T.V. Talk shows and radio shows. Connie books him on a Black Radio Station where the very flaming Quentin is surrounded by Hard Core Ghetto Brothers and tough as nails militant D.J. They accept him for who and what he is and make him a Honorary Brother. The listeners from the hood calling in for advice love both the man and his advice. Several scenes later Quentin goes to a Leather Bar and is Eighty-Sixed because he isn’t dressed to their code. Our cult darling becomes the epitome of an effeminate gay man with effeminate ways complete with makeup and trademarks that consisted of ascots galore,his signature ring,and hat. His frankness, arrogance,and honesty wows some and pisses off others. When he claims same-sex love is impossible, he’s attacked by gays for “playing to straights.”
Quentin becomes a movie reviewer for a Christopher Street magazine run by Philip Steele excellently played by Denis O’Hare. The two strike an agreement that touches on the richness of U.S. Film culture of the time compared with today’s times in which Steele allows Quentin the freedom and liberty of criticizing the movies he wants to. Steele writes the reviews that are the thoughts and opinions of Quentin during a conversation between the two at a greasy spoon. Philip already a fan becomes his best friend whose platonic relationship slowly builds between the two. Quentin’s spontaneous words of wit and wisdom earn him an high place in the gay community but then one of his comments gets him in trouble. His statement during one show that “AIDS is a fad, nothing more” and his refusal to recant or campaign for gay rights . “It is my policy never to lie, never to defend.”
Of course, this causes all hell to break loose with his career. One in which he buildup a celebrity career from being an outsider. His gay audience start to really suffer from the epidemic turns away from him. Crisp is dropped by his agent and editor after countless pleading with him to retract. His eyes are opened when he gets to know young artist Patrick Angus in a fantastic performance by Jonathan Tucker, who is dying of AIDS. He keeps his promise to the Artist by having his work shown in a gallery. Afterwards, Quentin returned to Britain and starred as a Victorian Queen.
Well into the Clinton era,Quentin wakes up and finds a lady in his apartment. She assures him that he’s not dead and she’s no Angel, his door was unlocked. The lady is performance artist Penny Arcade marvelously played by Cynthia Nixon. She takes Quentin back to the stage with moving material that takes him into 10th decade and once again he wins over the gay community. Steele returns to the tiny and shabby apartment to find Quentin living on the champagne an peanuts circuit. Steele devotedly looks after the now failing Quentin who’s enjoying his final bow. He tells his friend that he has a million dollars and asks why he doesn’t spend any of it? Quentin tells him that he contributes to AM Far so he can meet Elizabeth Taylor. The Grand Finale is a virtual Sermon on the Mount in a gay bar in Tampa, Fla. The two confess their gratitude for one another. This is a Brilliant Film that’s one of the Best Films of the year and decade. This is a most have in your DVD collection and it makes a great gift for holidays.
Saga Notes:The Opening Night Gala was held at Sodo Park where there was good food,healthy juice drinks, cocktails,and music by DJ Tree Oatmeal. Three Dollar Bill Cinema is a member generated organization. Please support the Gay Arts by becoming a member and enter a drawing for a trip to London.