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At age 73, writer and melancholy master of the bon mot, Quentin Crisp (1908-1999), became an Englishman in New York. Rossiter's camera follows Crisp about the streets of Manhattan, where Crisp seems very much at home, wearing eye shadow, appearing on a makeshift stage, making and repeating wry observations, talking to John Hurt (who played Crisp in the autobiographical TV movie, "The Naked Civil Servant"), and dining with friends. Others who know Crisp comment on him, on his life as an openly gay man with an effeminate manner, and on his place in the history of gays' social struggle. The portrait that emerges is of one wit and of suffering.Written by
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.
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