Got a fair amount done on my KA essay yesterday, so I forgive myself for spending the evening with my pal TV. At one point IFC was running Velvet Goldmine, followed by Hedwig, while LOGO had The Cockettes on. I spent the morning reading in part The Downtown Book : The New York Art Scene 1974-1984, so by 1 am I had veiwed much glitter and had spent a lot of time in the early 70’s.
In all of these cultural products people are trying to come to grips with a vanished moment, and they are all pulling their referneces from various styles of post-war drag. The hippie genderfuck of the Cockettes bled into glam, which moved into punk. Various cities produced their own inflections and then her we are a s a group of art historians, for lack of a better term, making these things that attempt to both tell the story and ressurect the style. Some of us are witnesses, but more often than not we are the latecomers, trying to express why all this stuff, this prancing around, matters. It matters because in some way it made us: it gave us hope to pursue and reside in our difference. But I think the ultimate truth is that none of this stuff travels well: it is micro culture that draws it’s strength in part from its insularity.
What I think of the films:
I’ll stick by my previous assertions Todd Hayes is a great filmmaker; VG is not a good film. It tries to do too much too earnestly: remake Citizen Kane, tell the story of glam, construct a narrative drama out of quotation, critique Reagan’s America be a musical. The only performer who manages to move the material out of the realm of thesis is Toni Colette.
Hedwig holds up much better perhaps because JCM lived with the material for so long. He doesn’t seem to have come up with a filmic equivalent for the play’s emotional climax however. But do we need the neo-platonism?
The Cockettes: it’s easier with a documentary, in part because you don’t have to take so much responsibility for the narrative you’re constructing (not so true, but let it slide)So many documentaries about gay life have this thematic: It was amazing, we were changing the world, then people began to do somay drugs, fall away, and then came AIDS. True, all of it but I wonder how deeply we’ve come tolook at AIDS as the price one must pay for daring to remake the world. Does this fear lurk at the back of people’s minds now, making it harder and harder for alternative cultures to assert themselves?