Paris Is Burning - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Paris Is Burning Reviews

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January 22, 2019
Though gawkily put together, this LGBT documentary remains iconic by centering on queer iconoclasts of color having a ball pursuing an alternative lifestyle to escape poverty and abandonment issues by defining voguing, shading and reading, pretending to be the women of their blonde ambition.
½ January 13, 2019
Like the balls themselves, the film allows people to express themselves without facing unwarranted judgement.
December 27, 2018
Full of role models and style icons! 5 stars
December 21, 2018
A vivid and poignant narrative on the folly of our nationâ(TM)s culture at the time, Paris is Burning, sheds light on the underground culture of specifically Black and Latino trans and gays. Visually dazzling and musically stunning, the soundtrack adds another thematic voice, showcasing joy, struggle, creativity and innovation. All scenes serve a purpose as to capture the lifestyle of the â~outcastsâ(TM) of that time and to show how they managed to overcome and survive huge differences in a dangerous time. The Ball scene, the most influential for most was anti-climactic but for good reason, it places the vogue scene in the heart of Harlem for where many have been influenced by this and find deep meaning in. The Documentary style of cinematography adds a sense of personal stigma and heart-felt conversations in between the musically and visually stunning shots alluding to that sense of struggle being conveyed as a part of the narrative. This film grasps at the roots of the late 80â(TM)s and early 90â(TM)s life, of a culture for the most part left behind in history with no mention anywhere else.

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.
½ September 4, 2018
Landmark documentary about the prominent figures involved in New York's drag ball culture of the 1980's. The subjects are presented with an unbiased eye laying forth their aspirations and inspirations with equal amounts of pathos and humor. To be real indeed.
May 31, 2018
I have never seen such brilliance in a movie especially one that is expressing style and positive influence on a beautiful culture this is surely the movie to see no matter gay or straight
May 17, 2018
Superficial but still pretty great documentary about the uptown drag balls of the 80's.
Shake the dice and steal the rice.
December 26, 2017
El documental hace un excelente trabajo en capturar aspectos de la realidad de la comunidad transgénero de New York en los 80s. Si se mira el documental con una mirada crítica, se puede aprender mucho sobre la necesidad de status y aprobación social del ser humano, y la forma que esta cobra en una sociedad racista y clasista.
Super Reviewer
December 5, 2017
As a revealing (and sad) portrait of this subculture of the 1980s, the film documents the balls, the "houses," "voguing" and a "realness" competition that raises some fascinating questions about what real means (gay men even appear teaching women to behave like "real" women).
June 4, 2017
Paris Is Burning: This documentary, about the black and Latino drag balls of the late 1980s New York, should be required viewing for any fan of RuPaul's Drag Race, to see where such concepts as chantay, shade, voguing and realness came from. The interviews with drag queens, nearly all of whom have long since died, are funny, thought provoking and heartbreaking, portraying a marginalized but proud segment of the population and its perception of white straight America. This time capsule documentary will forever be one of the foundations in the lexicon of LGBTQ filmmaking. A-
May 4, 2017
Paris is Burning is an insightful and often moving documentary of the 80's drag balls that breaks stereotypes and offers a glimpse of a whole underground - and beautiful - culture.
½ February 20, 2017
This documentary captures the fascinating and extravagant world of drag in late 80s New York. Anyone who, like me, is addicted to/obsessed with RuPaul's Drag Race will revel in this education on the origins of numerous phrases and words with which the show has made us familiar.
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.
February 3, 2017
Work, chanté, reading, throwing shade, vogue-ing etc. It is sad how eight seasons of Rupaul's Drag Race can make you forget that everything was born in the grimy 70's New York scene and was not conceived inside sanitized TV studios in Los Angeles. The drag queen culture was given birth in the poverty stricken inner city African-American, Latino, transgender, and homosexual communities.

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.
½ December 29, 2016
It explains everything. EVERYTHING!
October 31, 2016
What was shocking to me is how every single person in this documentary had a way with words. Today we can't express ourselves as well as people could a short while back.
June 14, 2016
This documentary is somehow fascinating because it shows a minority being able to express itself through Voging, fashion, makeup, attitudes and friendships. The ball seems to be the only place in the world where these people find a way to express who they are inside. The gallery of characters interviewed is colorful to say the least and it's definitely the type of documentary where everyone can relate to one of the stories, gay , straight, or whatever you call yourself. The inner battles lived by these flamboyant characters echoes too well the many struggles that most people go through in life which makes the film, even more endearing. I wish there was a little more place for the Voguing numbers but overall the film is a story of classic, cult, underground treat that has inspired countless other artists to explore and push the boundaries.
July 9, 2015
Bonus: history of vogueing. ð???ð??»
June 28, 2015
Fascinating, a seemingly perfect time capsule.
March 15, 2015
A film that taps into gay and Trans culture and its influence on pop culture. This is also a film about the very human need to fit in and to also, paradoxically, stand out.
February 18, 2015
Brilliant documentary portraying the ball gay scene in NYC in the late 80s. A crash course in gay culture history.
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