We gave it an A-
Taking its name from one of the Harlem drag balls it documents, Paris Is Burning is a portrait of the truly disenchfranchised — black and Hispanic drag queens — and their self-created world of illusion and disillusion. Incubators of the voguing craze that Madonna later latched onto, these balls also gave rise to a subculture of gay street gangs who formed ”houses,” creating family values the likes of which Dan Quayle couldn’t imagine.
Director Jennie Livingston was at the right place at the right time with her camera. Dressed in costumes fit for a Paris runway, each strutting participant for a moment becomes his fantasy, which, whether it’s a Vogue model or a Wall Street exec, is nearly always based on a white ideal. In the competition sequences, Paris Is Burning bristles with excitement; some will want to watch these parts over and over for their infusions of energy. In quieter moments, the film achieves a rare poignancy. A-