The Best Old Movies on a Big Screen This Week: NYC Repertory Cinema Picks, March 22-28

nyc repertory-wigstock-rubnitz

Wigstock: The Movie (1987)
Directed by Tom Rubnitz
“If you were a carpenter, and I was a candy-striper… or if I was a carpenter, and you installed aluminum siding… or if you were a carpenter, and I did electrolysis and waxing at Nina Paris’s Unisex Salon… or, if you and I both were carpenters…” A document, mixing performance footage and jokey interludes, of the first two Wigstock drag festivals, daylong variety concerts at the Tompkins Square Park bandshell a few summers before the riots (and subsequent indignities). The audience is in the low four digits for acts by Pyramid Club scenesters like Lypsinka, John Sex, and Frida, whose work with Barbie Dolls and kitsch falsetto predates Todd Haynes’s Superstar. Downtown from the African-American and Hispanic drag scene of Paris Is Burning, Wigstock is still heavily in thrall to the 60s (there’s a Janis Joplin tribute act, and very much Aqua Net), and, despite the AIDS crisis, it’s enormously joyful and frivolous. Videographer Tom Rubnitz made a number of playful videos within the East Village drag and performance scene (Pickle Surprise!), and this time capsule of one of many much-eulogized Alphabet City subcultures is also fascinating as a view of the drag community at a time when its members seem to have felt primarily interested in putting on shows for each other, rather than expecting the world to pay serious attention. Mark Asch (March 23, 7:30pm at Anthology Film Archives’s “Cross-Dressing on Screen,” curated by Lypsinka, who’ll appear at this screening of Rubnitz’s documentary paired with Barry Shils’s 1995 feature-length documentary, also called Wigstock: The Movie)



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