Paris Is Burning Reviews
Throughout the film, multiple people can be heard answering questions asked by the filmmakers, sometimes even over different scenes. The shots are close-ups when interviewees are talking and almost like observing shots when showcasing runway events or other type of events. The cinematography is very tight and close knit, conveying that it only shows the essentials, the message. Once in awhile you get white lettering, letting the audience know what is going on during the shows or the upcoming topic. Most categories seem to be about impersonating other social classes, people, trends. There are many innovative and quite socially critiquing categories. Along with those participating in the shows explaining the history as well as shading the youth of that time for ignoring them and leaving them out of mainstream culture.
The editing shots in this film dually mask this as a documentary as well as a cinematic movie. While, the narrative and certain camera shots and angles are obvious documentary styles of movie-making, the editing and certain scenes also add the perception of a film. The soundtrack adds huge benefit to that of the film by way of showing the emotion or enigma of that scene, a tactic used in almost every movie to draw in the viewer. This film is quite bias, in the way that films are to relay a certain message. Livingston, the Director, is trying to convey the message that itâ(TM)s advertisers and mainstream folks fault for the unrealistic and yearnings of money and fame instead of happiness for these Drag folk.
In retrospect, there are two competing narratives by giving this film not only a documentary, but a film with a meaning and purpose, its own thoughts, ideals, and situation. The first one being the cultural prominence of participation in the balls as showcased in the beginning. That idea is contrasted by the reality of how unhappy the people who pursue this lifestyle are. Despite that, the misery of the contestants is not clearly shown or supported as the main message for this film was to convey a social message about sexuality, diversity and cultural outcasting/ exclusion.
Shake the dice and steal the rice.
The film casts the spotlight on a selection of big personalities and influential characters from that scene, with the central focus being the infamous "balls" that were thrown to show off the best outfits and emulations of a range of categories of drag. Despite the extremely fabulous modelling, dancing and general attitudes of the featured individuals, the overriding narrative is melancholy; these were people who felt like outcasts with no future and little hope, making the best of what they had and finding comfort and support in their community.
In the years immediately after the film came out, many of the major 'stars' of the documentary sadly passed away, and one was even tragically murdered whilst filming was still ongoing. The enjoyment of watching the performances and interviews is muted slightly by realising how vulnerable they were, and I can understand why a lot of the cast felt quite angry and exploited when the documentary's success failed to improve their own situations.
What is more amusing while watching this film is when you realize that this was shot during the combined 12 years of Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. With the Christian Right's Moral Majority setting the direction of the entire nation, this beautiful subculture persisted and bloomed. 26 years later, heterosexuals have co-opted much of it, making what was once a niche culture mainstream.
"We as a people for the past 400 years is the greatest example of behavior modification in the history of civilization. We have had everything taken away from us and yet we have all learned to survive."
In the age of Donald Trump, "Paris is Burning" is showing us hope will never dim if you keep fighting.