Best known to mainstream audiences for being the semi-subject of Sting's "An Englishman in New York," Crisp was a writer, a British theater actor, and a bit part movie player on and off in his career, until, at the age of 73, he decided to leave his homeland and move to New York City, where he took up residence in a real shithole of an apartment.
Compared to the way Crisp dresses -- he's really old but flamboyantly gay, he wears makeup and dresses in a kind of style of a British fop, with velvet coat, rakish hat, and handkerchief -- his accomodations are a shocking contrast.
And that's about all I really got out of this biography of the man.
Crisp, who died in 1999, regarded himself as latter day Oscar Wilde, and in his little circle of admirers he's considered quite the quipmaster. Nossiter debunks this right from the start, as Crisp is seen to have a patter that consists of about three or four carefully developed witticisms. He delivers them, nonstop, to anyone who'll listen. And we see them, rapid fire, over and over again in different scenarios. It's easy to develop a reputation as a wit if you don't stop talking and you never say anything different.
From an embarassing appearance on the Sally Jessy Raphael show to an abrasive lecture given to a homosexual community group, Crisp doesn't seem to generate much support outside of his small base of celebrity hangers on (like John Hurt, an old friend). Michael Musto is a huge fan. That may not be a good thing.
But for a film that is ostensibly about why a strange little man decides to uproot his life and move to one of the most notorious metropolises on earth, we never really get an answer to that question. Crisp is just an enigma, a character that should have found a home with David Lynch or John Waters decades ago, but sadly never did.
The DVD includes a bonus documentary from Nossiter called Losing the Thread, about the art world.
Run time: 85 mins
In Theaters: Friday 18th October 1991
Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5
IMDB: 6.9 / 10
Director: Jonathan Nossiter
Producer: Jonathan Nossiter