For a while now, I've been joining some pals for a monthly movie night and last night we had a selection of mine, the 1990 documentary Paris Is Burning. Every time I come back to this film, I love it just as much as the first time, and it strikes me as more and more poignant as time goes on. It captures a moment, but the further we get from that moment it's easy to see how much of an impact the whole ball culture has had as it leaked out into pop culture at large. As well-received as this was at the time, its success was a bit of a bitter pill for the subjects of the story, who weren't able to share in as much of that success as they thought they would. Time has secured a legend for them outside the world of the balls, but the outcome only reinforces what many of them say in the film about their lot in life.
Paris Is Burning has always had a personal resonance, too, since it had a long run at the Loews Nickelodeon in Boston when I worked there during college. It was a particular favorite of all of us, and the music from the film (especially Cheryl Lynn's "Got to Be Real") is as deeply burned into my consciousness as the Loews policy trailer, which I've seen hundreds of times.
"Got to Be Real", of course, is as amazing as the Loews trailer is excruciating.
I was surprised how many people saw this film for the first time last night. It's so iconic to me that I just assume everyone else knows it inside and out like I do. It was a big hit, though, so movie-night mission accomplished. And here's Keith, securing his position as the mother of our film-series house by turning it out and showing how it's done on the runway, Baltimore style:
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