The Naked Civil Servant
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Naked Civil Servant, The (1975) (DVD)
The Naked Civil Servant created a furor in 1975 when it premiered on PBS in North America with viewers threatening to yank their support of their local stations. It was a film ahead of its time about a man even more ahead of his time. The Naked Civi Servant is based on the autobiography of Quentin Crisp, a man struggling to live an openly flamboyant, gay lifestyle during a time when homosexuality was against the law in Britain. His outlandish behavior shocked the intolerant pre-WWII British society and provoked frequent homophobic attacks, but Crisp staunchly refused to compromise his lifestyle and went on to become a cult celebrity and an international gay icon, a 20th-Century Oscar Wilde. This colorful, heartwarming coming of age tale is by turns funny and tragic.]]>
Between Oscar Wilde and Boy George, Quentin Crisp was the most important gay icon in England. The TV movie The Naked Civil Servant, adapted from Crisp's autobiography and broadcast in 1975, had a significant social impact in the cause of gay rights, and it's easy to see why. Packed with witty aphorism but also unflinching in its portrayal of the verbal and physical abuse Crisp received for being an openly effeminate homosexual; throughout most of Crisp's life, simply being flamboyant was a political statement, one not always appreciated by other gay men who sought to pass unsuspected. The film briskly moves from when he stumbled into London's gay demimonde to his bohemian social world and career as an artist's model to a particularly superb scene when he was put on trial for solicitation. The Naked Civil Servant also brought the brilliant John Hurt, who played Crisp with intelligence and humanity, to wide acclaim. Hurt has since appeared in movies as diverse as Alien, The Elephant Man, V for Vendetta, and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, but Crisp remains a signature role for this unique actor. The fortuitous combination of Crisp and Hurt makes The Naked Civil Servant essential viewing. Extras on the dvd include a short television piece in which Crisp interviewed Tina Brown when she was editor of Vanity Fair and a sweet, reminiscing commentary by Hurt, director Jack Gold, and producer Verity Lambert. --Bret Fetzer
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Top customer reviews
He plays the part of Quentin Crisp as only Crisp himself could, were it not for John Hurt. A sad tale of a less enlightened and less tolerant time. I don't doubt that things such as Mr. Crisp endured, still happen, but who am I to judge my neighbour. The courage Quentin Crisp displayed in order to be himself is laudable. Not a movie for homophobes, but for those safe in their sexuality, a very informative view into a world many of us will never know. There is also the underlying and scathing indictment of a society that feels justified in vilifying, ostracizing or worse, certain member who do not fit the accepted norm. Our neighbours who are different in any way, those who are...so!
This item was very well packaged, arrived in wonderful condition and very promptly.
The story begins circa 1913 with Crisp as a young boy of tender years, ogling himself in a mirror, in what looks to be a drape of fabric and beads moving to music but the action begins some years later as Quentin is looking at himself and preening in a mirror as his thoroughly disenchanted, disgusted and bewildered father catches him at it and asks: " Do you intend to spend your entire life admiring yourself?" Quentin answers him, in all seriousness, and says: "If I possibly can." And so it begins. Throughout the story you will marvel at how this man pulled off his brand of, beyond flamboyant, homosexuality in England of the 1930's and beyond. Trundling down the streets of Soho in London in flaming red Hennaed hair, full make-up and sandals, showing off his painted toe nails as well. He is denied service in WW II and branded as a homosexual "suffering from sexual perversion" ultimately taking on work as an artist's model...an occupation he held onto for three decades! Bear in mind that, unlike today, Crisp is not a political or social figure and has no agenda other to be who he is. He lives according to his own sense of things in a world he does not back down from and a world he asks no favors of. He is utterly likeable, intelligent, enjoyable, thoroughly remarkable and John Hurt plays him to the teeth! This is the film which made him a star, and Quentin Crisp a household name for many, many years!
A real 'feather in the cap' for the BBC (almost makes up for them missing out on the BRIDESHEAD REVISITED production!). Shame about the cover. I prefer the more restrained cover on the UK editions.
Seeing this some 27 years later, it still impresses me. My wife saw this and exclaimed that John Hurt really is a good actor. She now understands why I attempt to see every movie he is in. Even if it is just a walk-on part.
Full screen format was disappointing, but the print quality is very good. Sound is Mono, but then I would expect that of a 27 year old TV movie.
By the way, the subject matter is handled with as much grace as possible, but it is blunt. The court room scene makes the message.
John Hurt deservedly won the British Best Actor award for his incisive portrayal of Quentin Crisp. It is no wonder that his performance was critically acclaimed. It is nothing short of brilliant. His is a touching and sympathetic portrayal of an individual who wanted nothing more than to be able to be himself. It is a performance that is not to be missed. The film is an absolute gem.