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United Kingdom 1975
Directed by
Jack Gold
102 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

The Naked Civil Servant

Quentin Crisp was a self-declared ‘effeminate homosexual'. No big deal these days but it decidedly something in 1930s England. And to make matters worse, he flaunted his ‘perversion’ in public with a martyr’s zeal. All this was long before the gay movement and it is the solitary doggedness of Crisp’s self-appointed mission to have himself (and by implication anyone like him) accepted in society that is his claim to fame rather than anything he did in a political or creative sense. Although apparently lacking any artistic gift, in this respect he was thoroughly avant-garde.

This Thames television adaptation has a short prologue with Crisp himself speaking to the camera before John Hurt takes over with the recreation of his life-and-times, concentrating mainly on his early years but going up to the Swinging Sixties and beyond when dramatic changes in society meant that he was simple a face in the crowd. Given that Crisp was not particularly talented, or, sexual tendencies aside, eccentric, the material here is limited to his small adventures but John Hurt gives a very credible performance in bringing the old poof to life in all his modest humanity and knocking the socks off comparable portrayals of gays like that of William (no relation) Hurt in Kiss Of The Spider Woman (1985).

FYI: Hurt again played Crisp in a 2009 sequel, An Englishman In New York (d Richard Laxton, 75m) that dealt with Crisp's life in the 1980s and 90 in New York.

DVD Extras: A 30 minute 1990 TV interview with Crisp.




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