Englishman in New York, An (DVD Review)17 Feb, 2010 By: Billy Gil
Stars John Hurt, Denis O’Hare, Jonathan Tucker, Swoosie Kurtz, Cynthia Nixon.
This film gives an unflinching look at author Quentin Crisp’s later years while living in New York, including his controversially flippant view toward the AIDS crisis.
The flamboyant, then-audacious British author came of age in the early 20th century, when animosity and violence toward homosexuality were rampant. He wrote of his life in the 1968 novel The Naked Civil Servant, which won him widespread notoriety and was made into a TV film, starring John Hurt as Crisp.
Now comes the sequel to the 1975 film, also starring Hurt. Hurt’s portrayal is admirable, full of restraint and subtlety while playing a character whose outward appearance and mannerisms could’ve been forced into caricature. His refusal to ever apologize for himself, even when faced with outrage from the queer community for not having expressed more sympathy for the gay rights movement and AIDS epidemic, is shown as a testament to Crisp’s duty to be true to himself above all else.
And, for those unaware of Crisp and who may not have an understanding of the rapidly evolving queer culture of the past couple of decades, from the early days of being hidden and outlawed to its more decadent side of backrooms and parties and inexplicable queer-against-queer prejudice, the film should enlighten.
Though the film feels a bit pinched at times — it could stand to be longer in the beginning and lay off the clichés about aging near the end — it is nonetheless an enjoyable film and a reminder of Crisp’s legacy.