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RESIDENT ALIEN

USA, 1990 (MIFF 1991, Documentaries)

Director: Jonathan Nossiter

Marginal victim, superstar, homosexual icon, dandy; which ever way you wish to describe him, Quentin Crisp remains one of the greatest and most fascinating British inventions of the last millenium. Director Jonathan Nossiter met his subject while working as Adrian Lyne's assistant on Fatal Attraction and Quentin Crisp came in to do a cameo, which was later cut. They become fascinated with each other, though Nossiter would not call them actual friends. "I don't think Quentin really has friends", says Nossiter. "To deal with him via the camera was the most satisfying way of dealing with him."

For his part, Crisp says, "I do what I'm told. When Jonathan said, 'We'll make the film'. I said yes, because I say yes to everything." Thus began this portrait of 81-year-old Quentin Crisp, who emigrated to Manhattan at the age of 73, when he was riding the crest of a publicity wave.

The British television drama about his early life as a pioneer gay, The Naked Civil Servant, starring John Hurt, had just been broadcast in the United States. Crisp came specifically with the idea of capitalising on his 15 minutes of fame (subsequently dubbing Hurt his "representative on earth")

With set-up dramatic encounters and documentary interviews with Sting (another New York emigree), Holly Woodlawn, Fran Lebowitz, Emile de Antonio, Paul Morrissey, and a poignant scene with John Hurt as they reunite to watch the earlier film together, the film traces the character of this indefatigably witty, wildly dressed and outlandishly coiffured sexual revolutionary and bohemian king. In turns joyful, pathetic, criticised and adored. Crisp continues to fascinate.

Director's Note: "I met him and found the focus for a film I had wanted do on New York for a long time, and which has become a sort of documentary, but in which the people are virtually fictions." - Jonathan Nossiter

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