|James St James meets an impressionable Michael Alig
The film is set in the club scene of '80s New York, but manages to look and feel, in some rather bizarre ways, timelessly modern rather than dated to that era. It regards two extremely flamboyant and bitchy young socialites, Michael Alig (Macaulay Culkin, who surprised me by being excellent here) and James St James (Seth Green, an actor I always enjoy) - their club nights and their domestic life. Michael and James live wilfully grotesque lives, never resting from their highly-strung, drug-frenzied Noel Cowerd schtick, all played out in drag and magnificent clubwear. As the movie starts, the pair bicker self-consciously, quite aware that they're on camera, each vying to narrate their version of the tale. Michael mentions, casually and without regret, that he's committed a murder, and as per 'Double Indemnity' (1944) the body of the film is in flashback, showing how the murder came to occur. It's a true story, by the way.
|Michael in characteristically alarming array.
Michael and James are intriguing characters, and, presumably, people. They're on all the time, always in costume and putting on characters, for themselves as much as for their peers, who they treat as an audience. It's like 'Withnail and I' (1987), but with two Withnails and no I. I felt for them in their superficiality; I wanted to see them relax, to be themselves rather than exhausting themselves with masks. I didn't want to see them be normalised or become mundane, just to relax, to be honest with themselves. It's the difference between being naturally eccentric (which is commendable) and being an eccentric. Imagine being John Mccrirrick. Now imagine being John Mccrirrick every day for the rest of your life. It could be a wild novelty, but pursued as a lifestyle it would be exhausting, and would soon be no fun at all - a cry for help, and one that could lead to a tremendous breakdown. Now, there's much to be said for dressing up, and far too few people dress interestingly; I'm a great advocate of all manner of fancy-dress antics, but there have to be some moments of some days where you dress for yourself, and as yourself, rather than merely to impress, alarm and intimidate your audience. The only time Macaulay Culkin ever seems truly relaxed here, he isn't wearing anything at all. For a brief scene towards the end of the movie, he takes a bath, and seems blissfully, innocently happy. He loses nothing of his character, his mirth or habitual androgyny here, but seems to have a peace he's spent the rest of the film avoiding.
|Angel, the dealer, starts as a leatherman but is encouraged to dress up to his name and station.
He was the victim of the aforementioned murder.
...and here it is on shiny disc, though I watched it on Netflix meself.