Friday, October 20, 2017

Larger Than Bartsch

The 2007 edition of NewFest, New York's premiere LGBT film festival, opened up last night with the premiere of the documentary Susanne Bartsch: On Top, about the legendary party artist and club queen -- if you want to know just how un-hip I am (as if you don't know that already, in spades) just hear this: until I started watching the doc I had no idea who Bartsch was. Now here after watching the doc I feel ashamed of that fact - not for reasons of hipness, but for reasons of cultural legacy and gay history. Okay I suppose hipness too, but not entirely. 

The heyday of the whole "club kid" scene slightly pre-dates my time in NYC - I didn't move here until the year 2000. I remember seeing them on shows like Donahue in my teen years and gawking in dumbstruck awe, but once I moved here (which was in a post Michael Alig Murder World) that whole scene had gone back underground. 

Susanne Bartsch was, and is, still going though, and the doc makes a terrific case for her icon status - she's beautifully strange and tough as nails; she's like a limb of the New York City body now. Integral. We'd bleed out without her. It's not just the party scene - the doc shows how she channeled her anger and agony from the AIDS Crisis, watching her friends drop dead all around her, into real activism, throwing the first major benefit for AIDS research in 1989 and getting all the big names on board.

The film takes great delight in capturing this over-the-top woman in the most normal of situations - making a chicken in a pot! Literally cleaning out her gutters! - and the frisson works, even though it's an obvious choice, just because of what a big personality she is. It's also gorgeously lensed by Michael Beach Nichols, whose name I made a note of catching - he shoots the city and its night-life in rich blacks bursting with spontaneous neon. Keep an eye out for this if this sounds up your alley at all; here's the trailer:
NewFest continues over the weekend -- check out their whole line-up here. And see our previous posts on the highlights of this year's fest right here. I'll be reviewing a couple more of these titles as it goes, so stay tuned. Tonight's big film is Trudie Styler's film Freak Show with Bette Midler tonight - see our post on that right here. And tomorrow night they're showing God's Own Country...

... which we've been clamoring for months for, and whose stars Josh O'Connor and Alec Secareanu were just photographed really lovingly for Out magazine. GOC actually opens up in theaters next week here in NYC. Hello there, Alec!

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