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Naked Civil Servant, The (1975)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

Quentin Crisp introduces the film, saying that the decision to find someone else to play him was right as they are bound to do it better than he does. With arch enthusiasm, he claims "any film, even the worst, is at least better than real life."

England, the late 1920s. A teenaged Quentin lives at home with his grumpy middle-class father and adoring mother. He is becoming aware that he is 'different' to other people, in particular that he is not sexually attracted to women.

His parents struggle to identify what is 'wrong with him', seeking medical advice and, finally, sending him to art college in an attempt to force him into society. They are reassured when he befriends a young female art student, but the relationship is strictly platonic.

Quentin reaches a turning point when he meets a transvestite prostitute who introduces him to many more like him in the local gay 'hangout'. He discovers the joys of make-up and discovers that exhibitionism is addictive.

Quentin dyes his hair red and parades his homosexuality like a badge. Abuse becomes a regular occurrence, both verbal and physical, with his own father saying he looks like a male whore. Not at all averse to the idea, Quentin begins working as a prostitute. He meets his first long-term boyfriend, 'Thumbnails', and is able to leave home.

In 1930, at the age of 22, Quentin gets a job as a commercial artist and is able to move out of Thumbnail's place into a room of his own. Life is a ball. Quentin is no longer walking the streets and he has plenty of eccentric friends.

Expressing his homosexuality has become a mission for Quentin and as a result he is rejected by almost everyone. He is regularly beaten up and the gay contingency won't associate with him because he is far too obviously gay, whereas they are all hiding in the closet. He is made redundant from his job and begins lodging with a ballet teacher and teaching tap dancing for his keep.

After a reasonably regular relationship with a 'straight' civil servant, the police intervene when neighbours complain they see 'activities' through the bedroom window. The civil servant is never seen again.

Quentin is even rejected from serving his country in 1939 during the Second World War on the grounds of sexual perversion, leaving him free to indulge full time in the fruits of American servicemen. He begins to put his exhibitionism to excellent use as artists' model.

Things take a turn for the worse again when Quentin is arrested for soliciting in London's West End, but he turns the situation to his advantage and gives a life-defining speech in the witness box. He has so many good character witnesses that the case is thrown out of court.

In 1945, as the war ends, Quentin begins his third long-term relationship. His good friend from art college has left her Polish lover to become a nun; meanwhile the lover has been institutionalised due to paranoid delusions. Quentin begins visiting him every weekend, splits up with his burly boyfriend and gets a blue rinse. Eventually the Pole is allowed out to visit him and they become lovers of a sort, until the Pole hangs himself.

1975. Quentin remarks that the symbols he adopted to express his individuality have become the uniform of all young people. He reminisces over one night of perfect happiness and declares himself one of the 'stately homos' of England.