Paris Is Burning, Clara Bow, and Zelda Fitzgerald – Musings, Monday, February 27, 2017

A still from the lost reels of Get Your Man.

Bear with while I try something new.

Nowadays, so many people start blogs and then abandon them because they feel they have nothing to say. Even if we’re blogging about a popular subject such as food, odds are someone’s already said it before. That recipe, that interview, that perfect Instagrammable shot – they’re all already out there, so why bother?

But what about if blogging went back to a form of journaling? You know, like how we all started with LiveJournal some 15 years ago. I know what you’re thinking – because I didn’t really care about reading other people’s journals back then either. But some people do. There are writers, Alan Bennett for instance, who have made a hugely successful career simply by publishing their daily diaries in book form. I’ll confess that I don’t find Bennett especially scintillating, but I get the point of his work and of his desire to publicly document his life.

I always figured I’d become an essayist, and despite writing many other types of things over the years (books are coming… many books!), essay-type articles have always been my favourite. So I’m not sure it will stick, but I constantly have so many little things I want to write about in some way, things that don’t warrant a full post, but which are interesting or fun enough that I want to share.

We’ll see where this goes.

Paris Is Burning
We came across this on Netflix last night and it turns out that neither Greg nor I had ever seen it. I’m not sure how that is – I had a full on routine to Madonna’s Vogue that I would trot out at parties to much acclaim (yes, I could totally do Willi Ninja’s make-up routine) – so we decided to watch it.

First, hurrah for the differences 30 years make. Gay marriage is legal, we have a treatment, if not a cure, for HIV/AIDS, and we’re kinda, sorta working on cultural acceptance of trans people. Also hurrah for the love and acceptance within the “house” system of drag. For so many people who had been rejected by their family, to have a group of people who accepted and protected you was so empowering. The sad parts – we’re still not there yet, and this film makes it very clear how much further we have to go. Also super sad – many of the featured dancers in Paris Is Burning are now deceased, most from AIDS. We also learned from Wikipedia that they all had to fight to get any money from the producers of the film once it started doing well, which feels terribly unfair when you think about how a vital theme of the film was the poverty these kids were living in.

Clara Bow, Get Your Man and the Lost Films of the 20s
A headache kept me from attending a TIFF screening of the Clara Bow film Get Your Man on Saturday, but then Greg pointed out that it was probably available on YouTube. I tend to forget about YouTube for things like this but he was right, and after watching Paris is Burning, I sat down to watch it. Minus a soundtrack, because silent, it did include the cracking of old celluloid running through a projector. About 20 minutes into the 60 minute listed running time, the film jumped ahead to “Part 4”. Clearly there was something missing in between, and while I figured out the basic plot of what was lost, I waited to see if perhaps the reels were out of order for some reason. But when we looked it up, we found that parts 2 and 3 were missing and had been for years. (The existing reels weren’t in great shape either, with various sections of bubbling and black-outs.)

What burns a bit is that TIFF was charging full price ($14) for tickets to a screening where part of the film was missing, and didn’t mention that fact on the listing. I’m very glad we decided to stay home and find it online. Unfortunately, I might have fallen down the rabbit hole that is silent movies in the public domain that are now available on YouTube. I might never go to a theatre to see an old movie again.

Z: The Beginning of Everything
And speaking of the 1920s… We powered through the series about Zelda Fitzgerald (featuring Christina Ricci as Zelda) on Amazon and quite enjoyed it. I think in the past few years, with the remake of The Great Gatsby, and now with this series, the world is beginning to understand that not only wasn’t Zelda crazy, but she was constantly demeaned, gaslighted and manipulated by an egotistical narcissist. The series ends before the publication of Scott’s The Beautiful and the Damned, so hopefully it gets renewed, as there’s a lot more to the story and it would be grand for the world to finally see Zelda as a powerful and creative person in her own right, as opposed to through the lens of her husband who thwarted her efforts because of his own insecurity.