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Paris Is Burning Criterion Blu-ray Review


“Paris Is Burning” is an enlightening documentary.

Directed by Jennie Livingston, “Paris Is Burning” is a documentary about the drag ball scene in 1987 New York. More specifically, it focuses on the African American and Latin American communities involved. Via interviews with performers and personalities such as Pepper LaBeija, Dorian Corey, Kim Pendavis, Venus Xtravaganza, Willi Ninja and Octavia St. Laurent, we (the audience) learn more about the drag ball culture, the competitions, the Houses (each led by a Mother), the lifestyle, as well as the terminology that is associated with it (ala voguing, realness, and shade). 

Before the TV series “Pose” became a hit, 1990’s “Paris Is Burning” first shed light on the NY drag ball scene community as it was happening back in the 80’s. Although it doesn’t cover all the bases, Livingston’s documentary does a fine job of summarizing the culture and what it means to the participants as they vie to become legends, live out fantasies, and or find a family to call their own so to speak.

“Paris Is Burning” covers more than just the drag ball world, however, as the doc also manages to focus on the hopes and dreams of the performers along with important real world subjects such as class, homosexuality, the trans community, and minorities in America. Even though the documentary is now 30 years old, it’s quite remarkable how this documentary remains relevant in its exploration of these subjects.


Presentation: 1.33:1 1080p. How does it look? The 2K digital restoration is largely solid, but there are still some sequences that resemble that of a VHS to be honest.

Audio Track: Uncompressed Mono. How does it sound? Expect a crisp and cleaned up Mono track.

* Fundraising and theatrical trailers
* A booklet with credits, photos, an essay by filmmaker Michelle Parkerson and a review by Essex Hemphill
* A 1991 episode of “The Joan Rivers Show” featuring the director and select interviewees of “Paris Is Burning.”
* A new interview with current House Mother Gisele Xtravaganza who talks about “Paris Is Burning” and her own life.
* A newly recorded interview with filmmaker Jenni Olson who discusses “Paris Is Burning” and queer cinema.
* The section is listed as outtakes but it’s essentially 20 deleted scenes and 9 minutes of outtakes
* Another new extra. This one being a half-hour conversation between director Jennie Livingston, filmmaker Thomas Allen Harris, and ball performers Freddie Pendavis and Dr. Sol Williams Pendvis.
* A 2005 commentary with Jennie Livingston, Willi Ninja, Freddie Pendavis, and editor Jonathan Oppenheim. Livingston scripted many of her comments until she converses with others.

February 22, 2020 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , , , ,

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