An Englishman In New York Review: Legal Alien

December 28, 2009 by  
Filed under - Home, Reviews

4hurt300AN ENGLISHMAN IN NEW YORK: Monday 28th December, ITV1, 9pm ALERT ME

If England was as liberal in the seventies as it is now, this film may well have been called ‘An Englishman in Brighton.’

Instead, gay icon and writer Quentin Crisp flees the intolerant UK for New York where his sexuality, together with his eccentric wit, is welcomed and celebrated.

Played by John Hurt in 1975 in ‘The Naked Civil Servant’, the actor is reprising his role in this biological TV drama about Crisp’s later years in a believable, honest and sensitive performance.

Quentin Crisp is something of an enigma. The witty loner, who on receiving a call from someone who wishes to punch him in the face retorts, ‘Do you wish to make an appointment?’ certainly had me laughing.

But in the scenes where he is shown in solitude, you wonder if his colourful speech was a defence mechanism for inner loneliness. He says at one point, ‘People think I don’t need anyone, but they’re wrong! I don’t mind.’ A little deep for a film review, yes, but perhaps Crisp has fulfilled his mission – he makes us think.

“If people got what they deserved, we’d all starve,? while a dig at revolutionaries is perhaps another self-depreciative hint to his inhibited life as a gay man in London. His words of wisdom earn him a high place in the US gay community, however, with regular appearances on TV and radio. Shot exclusively in New York, you feel as if you’re there with Quentin, experiencing every move, sight and smell.

His relationships with the friends he meets allow us to explore Crisp further. He becomes a movie reviewer for a Christopher Street magazine run by Philip Steele (Denis O’Hare) and gets to know young artist Patrick Angus (Jonathan Tucker), who is dying of AIDS. The latter delivers a very emotive performance, a highlight of this moving piece of cinema.

Other notable roles are Crisp’s ‘savvy agent’ played by Swoosie Kurtz and performance artist Penny Arcade (Cynthia Nixon). Who is basically Miranda from Sex In The City in a black wig. But she fulfils her role’s purpose, which is surely the main thing.

The film ends with a witty line from Crisp but ultimately shows, as writer Brian Fillis says, that he has ‘found Dennis’, the man behind the pseudonym. “You must find what’s uniquely you,? he tells his audience. And it’s an honour to join him in his search.

tilly green says:

I thoroughly enjoyed this piece which showed John Hurt in a brilliant light. What a shame I wasn’t around when Crisp was in his heyday, would love to have been in his audience. And by the way, changing his name from Denis Pratt was the best move ever, other than the one which crossed the Atlantic.