Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Naked Civil Servant

We watched The Naked Civil Servant last night (recorded off the TV a while back), a dramatisation of Quentin Crisp's life made in 1975. Considering that it was made 33 years ago, it really is a classic bit of TV drama. The thing that was the most disturbing about it, however, was the way in which nearly everybody in 1930s England was violently homophobic. Quentin Crisp used to get slapped by passing women in broad daylight. You forget sometimes what really vicious homophobia is like, until it happens - again - to someone you love.

Also shocking were those gays of the 1930s who were so in the closet that Quentin's flamboyant queerness was too much for them; they did not see that he was the future, that he was fighting for the cause of gay liberation by being out, loud and proud. I am glad that he lived to see significant progress in the field of gay rights, and to be honoured for his achievements.

The weirdest bit is at the end, when we arrive at the "present" (1975), and I was so engrossed that I forgot that that was when it was made and therefore it must be the end of the film.

I am more full of admiration for Quentin Crisp than ever.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love this film and watched it myself again recently. It's curious watching it now as I saw it when it was first broadcast and didn't know what to make of it, that world of flamboyant queens seemed very remote and alien at age 13 when I didn't have much attraction for anyone, boys or girls. (There had been signs but I didn't recognise them.)

The thing which strikes me now is the quality of the writing and John Hurt's amazing performance. And yes, shock at the way society used to be. The speech he gives in the dock is eye-wateringly heroic.