There are several brief scenes that show a contestant’s breasts. Prostitution is discussed twice, albeit euphemistically.


Film review:Translated by www.rabudo-ru.com


When the luxury shopping platform farfetch exclusively introduced the fashion brand faith connexion this spring, it quoted the title of the documentary Paris is burning to describe the grand occasion of the Paris International ready to wear exhibition. So I came to watch this film more than 20 years ago and found that many words and behaviors existing in mainstream pop culture today are rooted in the underground culture of black gay groups in Harlem District of New York in the 1980s reflected in this documentary.

As the most famous work of filmmaker Jenny Livingston, Paris is burning can be regarded as the milestone of Queer Film in the documentary category. It has been watched, discussed, disputed and imitated and saluted countless times.

Black, male and gay, the film reveals the triple obstacles of this group based on the world at the beginning. Rao is so. They still develop vogues and other cultures with their inexhaustible vitality and break into the mainstream cultural circle. If you are involved in drag queen, you should know the words such as read, shade, realness and category. The film takes this series of “slang” as the subtitle and uses the mouth of these underground culture trendsetters to complete the interpretation and interpretation of words.

Ball is the most important activity of this group and the focus of the whole film. It literally means a dance. Here, it refers to an activity of the American black gay community in the 1980s. People bought clothes, painted and gathered in the ballroom to carry out the “competition”. The competition is divided into multiple categories, including shows, dances and other forms. The judges score one by one to determine the ownership of the winners of each category. If football and basketball are games that make straight people crazy, then ball is a gay carnival. Here, they don’t have to hide their gay identity, but show themselves in a big way, show their beauty and demonization, desire and dream.

Realness is an important basis for theme formulation, scoring and judgment in the ball. It literally means true and true. For example, school realness should do everything possible to reflect the theme of “school” from clothing to gait and deduce a natural sense of scene. With this role play, gay groups can express their understanding and feelings for different lives. For example, executive reality, that is, the theme of workplace elites, is limited to the social class of black comrades. They can hardly experience the life of workplace elites on Wall Street, but in ballroom, they can pretend that they are the stereotype of the American Dream: white skin, wealth, suits, and linger in the taste of champagne, coffee and cigars. What is revealed in this vivid performance can be a dream come true after a long time of envy, or a joke and ridicule after insight into everything.

House is another impressive concept, namely “family”. Different from the families based on blood relationship, most of the families here are founded by the famous winners of ballroom events, which are maintained by similar aesthetic tastes and deep emotional connections. Ball is nominally a “competition”, which is actually regarded as a “war” between houses. In order to get tickets to join a favorite house, novices and veterans will fight Fangfei on the ball for the glory of their own house. Comrades who were rejected, abandoned or even homeless by their parents found material and spiritual support through house. This support made them forget their original surname, which only brought humiliation to them in the past, and instead use house name as their current surname. “I’m a labeija / Ninja / Xtravaganza / St. Laurent / pendavis…” the pride shown in such “family oath” can be realized by observing their every move on the ball without language.

Read and shade are probably the two most well-known words in queer subculture. Read means make complaints about the shortcomings of the other side. Unlike hostile abuse, read is often smart and humorous, which can dispel the tense atmosphere, make the people who are read laugh together, and admire the wisdom in the words. Shade is a kind of covert struggle. Words are hidden in words. Applying the classic interpretation of Dorian Corey in the film, “shade is… I don’t tell you you’re ugly, but I don’t have to tell you because you know you’re ugly.” Throw a shade is the act of carrying out a shade, and the adjective shady is used to describe such a discourse.

Shadow is not limited to language. Voguing is a dance originated from throwing a shade with body movements. On the ball, it is difficult to distinguish the two sides of the competition just by their appearance. They often compete with vogues and dances. Voguing’s name is taken from vogue, a fashion magazine, because its dance moves are mostly magazine model pose. It became popular because of Madonna’s vogue, and vogue entered the vision of mainstream pop culture. Madonna learned several standard movements in vogue from house of ninja. The father of Voguing was Willi ninja, the “patriarch” of the house of Ninja at that time. He named his family Ninja because ninjas come and go freely and quickly like the wind. His spiritual attainments and incisive interpretation of vogue dance are as neat and convincing as the name of this family.

The title Paris is burning comes from Willi Ninja’s monologue in the film: “I want to take vogue, not just take it to Paris is burning, but to the real Paris, and make the real paris burning.” He hopes that Vogue’s vitality will not be limited to this documentary entitled “Paris is burning”, but will enter the house and come to Paris, the beautiful flagship in the eyes of this group of New York drifters, so that Paris can burn. Paris is no longer a super metropolis on the map, but a synonym for all beautiful words such as the world, light, fashion, hope, dream, beauty, fame, wealth and power. Burning means that these dancers dig deep into their own lives, use oral and body language to shake the “Paris” that gathers the beauty of all beauty, and let the world know that this “Paris” is not a forbidden place under the special jurisdiction of the so-called white upper class society. Their lives and expressions deserve a place here.

In the late 80s, in New York, gay groups lived in the threat of AIDS and social discrimination. Ballroom to these people, just like the magic nutmeg to their black slave ancestors, is the way to enjoy themselves. There is no rigid gender and sexual orientation here. Everyone can freely choose gender: male, female or gender fluid; Freely choose clothes: Men’s, women’s and neutral; Free to decide whether to take sex hormones to change your appearance. Because of its concealment and inferiority, this community has the greatest tolerance for diversity. Everyone competes with each other and entertains themselves. In the bustle, it is really becoming a person that can not be become in the straight society.

However, the self-contained underground culture builders are also admiring the happiness of the mainstream straight society. The beautiful Octavia St. Laurent went to the model draft to take sexy photos, trying to be a blockbuster. At the same time, she also dreamed of “live a normal, happy life”, having a lover and adopting a child. The petite Venus Xtravaganza frankly said that what she admired most was the spoiled white girl from a rich family, who dreamed of getting married in a church in a white wedding dress. Their pride is not as solid as gold. No matter how shining and winning countless awards in ballroom, they can’t stand the abrasion of years and the call of “happy life” from the mainstream perspective – they have to face aging, poverty, loneliness and out of control, and find the ultimate comfort and support for themselves.

Dorian Corey and pepper labeija, as representatives of older comrades, have no such anxiety of young people. With profound experience, they seem to have insight into the subtle relationship between beauty and age. In ballroom, they win with a sense of propriety and skillful and aftertaste dance. They tell the audience that drag queen can also be a lifelong career, and old drag queen is not a synonym for depression and misery. Pepper explains the meaning of lengendary with his actions of operating labeija family for many years. Take in homeless children, foster them into tomorrow’s stars and inherit the ballroom culture; Participate in fashion design and model training, raise funds to build a new ballroom venue, and let the highlights in ballroom flow back into the mainstream fashion circle. Such a career is enough to exhaust a person’s life and create a legend.

But fate always follows the Matthew effect and does not give even a drop of water to the barren soil of these sexual minorities. Venus Xtravaganza’s dream of transsexual surgery had not yet been funded, so she died of murder. Four days later, her body was found in an unknown small hotel, and the murderer is still unknown. Most of the shining rising stars in ballroom are actually stolen clothes. If we want to investigate their financial sources, most of them are sex workers or engaged in other illegal transactions. The bright and idealistic tone of the documentary can not hide the cruelty of the mainstream society to them. The spectacle they created in the airtight ballroom, in the eyes of some outsiders, is extremely boring and worthless. Magnificent underground landscape, but for self entertainment; The elements exported to the mainstream pop culture are slowly forgotten; What is more sad is that ballroom culture is by no means a linear evolution. Like any subculture, it has to face urgent practical problems such as the change of community, the decline of resources and the transfer of interest. Can it still keep its original freshness and charm today?

In the documentary, the most brilliant and bright side of the gay circles in that era is the condensation of idealism and bright colors. The results of comparison vary from person to person. In my case, there are some mixed feelings. What is gratifying is that, with the struggle of generations, the understanding of gender and the tolerance of sexual orientation are improving. The worry part has nothing to do with gender and sexual orientation. It is the general loss that people in this materialistic Consumerism Era must have in the face of the prosperity and brilliance of the 1980s and 1990s. Interpersonal relationships do not tend to be intimate due to the development of the Internet. Social apps are used to solve sexual and material needs. At the same time, people are more ashamed to reveal their feelings. The manufacture of pride parades, films and television with minority themes and other categories has become more and more commercialized, and inevitably evolved into a “pink economy”. Under the command of economic laws, it lacks the new ideas and sincerity of the original underground subculture period. The gay community is experiencing an involution crisis, that is, falling into growth without actual development and relying on the copy expansion of inherent experience to barely maintain.

Willi Ninja’s descendants can indeed easily fly to Paris on the map and perform their proud vogue in the fashion capital, but the audience has long been not a knowledgeable ballroom player, but a pair of boring spectators with curiosity and entertainment mentality. It is still the upper class who monopolize media resources and mainstream discourse power. Voguing dance, together with synth pop music, has become a nostalgic landscape of the 1980s from a retro perspective. It is only for leisure or sampling as leftovers for new pop. The external environment in the 1980s was depressing and dreary for comrades, but the clothes and temples created in the community culture reflected the creative power of life that is now difficult to see again; The wisdom and warmth, humor and demeanor of those years are the good attitude few people have now. In the fast-paced Internet society, human beings want to stimulate dopamine secretion to obtain endless happiness. How can we have time to immerse in the former model of beauty, think and carve new forms belonging to the new era? Whether Paris is burning, which combines the beauty of all beauty, is still the common pursuit of gay groups, we have to put a question mark.

Are we getting farther and farther away from Paris? This is a new problem when looking back at the film more than 20 years later.

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