Paris Is Burning (1990)
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Poignant, well-received documentary that reveals the community of New York's minority drag queens, gay black and Latino men who cross dress as women and invent the dance style of "voguing," imitating the fashion poses on the covers of the magazine Vogue. As director Jennie Livingston discovers, her subjects band together into family-like "houses" for protection, taking the same last names and competing in drag balls where awards are given out for authenticity or "realness," as well as other categories like "evening wear" and "executive wear." Both an embracing and a refutation of the world of high fashion, the balls become the social locus of this underclass, underground society of outcasts defiantly refusing to be ignored by a world that scorns them. Paris Is Burning (1991) was one of several critically acclaimed documentaries of the late 1980s and early 1990s excluded from Academy Award nominations, eventually leading to a reappraisal of the Academy's stodgy selection process. … More
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Critic Reviews for Paris Is Burning
Livingston is smart enough to realize that her subjects are best equipped to explain themselves.
This landmark docu celebrates the resourcefulness of a group that's subcultural but not truly countercultural--its denizens long to become members of the society they imitate, operating at its periphery.
Audience Reviews for Paris Is Burning
This documentary is a beautiful time capsule of the "ball" culture of late eighties drag culture. Not only does it show the performance aspect of these intricate and flawless drag shows, but also the AIDS fueled hysteria of the time, discrimination against gay people, and the fears and doubts of these one of a kind people. Since the film was released, many of the performers have died of AIDS related illnesses, and many of their trade secrets and views on life are only evident on the celluloid that this film was printed on. The subjects of this two year documentary are fascinating because of their candor and reverence for their craft. The film is both insightful in its depiction of ball culture and thoroughly entertaining for its depth and scope.More
A revealing (and sad) portrait of this subculture of the 1980s, it documents the balls, "houses" (or "families"), "voguing" and a "realness" competition that raises fascinating questions about what it is to be real (gay men even appear teaching women to behave like "real" women).More
A timeless, classic LBGT film. Quite bold for its time...which I guess means it isn't exactly "timeless"....still....More
This documentary focuses on the aspirations and culture of African American homosexuals and transsexuals.
What is interesting about this subject is the depth of the culture. Filled with nuances and its own patois, gay and transsexual culture is remarkably complex, and the film exposes all.
I can't say that I enjoyed the film because I've never been sitting in my apartment and thought, "Gee, I wonder what gay culture was like in the 80s." But that's not the film's fault.
Overall, if you've ever been sitting in your apartment thinking, "Gee, I wonder what gay culture was like in the 80s," then this is the film for you.
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