Tuesday, June 23, 2015 at 7:30pm
Rosa von Praunheim's Tally Brown, New York

155 Freeman Street, Brooklyn

Tally Brown, New York, Rosa von Praunheim, 1979, 16mm, 93 mins
Introduced by Melissa Anderson

Premiering the same year as Army of Lovers or Revolt of the Perverts, his coast-to-coast chronicle of the still young gay-rights movement in the US, Rosa von Praunheim’s Tally Brown, New York celebrates a sole deviant performer and her hometown. The extravagantly bewigged Brown (1924–1989)—whose even more theatrical false eyelashes seem capable of sending her short, round body aloft—proves a most mesmerizing song stylist in this tender portrait. Covering Kurt Weill, Johnny Mercer, the Rolling Stones, and David Bowie, the chanteuse, resplendent in a shoulder-baring black mini-muumuu, vivifies each number with a tobacco-deepened tremolo.

Just as spectacular are Brown’s gifts as a raconteur. In her colloquies with von Praunheim, conducted almost entirely off-screen, she recounts a fortuitous early encounter at Tanglewood with Leonard Bernstein (who called her “a white Billie Holiday”) and gigs both on and way off Broadway. (A sample exchange between director and subject: “How did you come into the underground?” “Which one, sweetheart?”) As Brown reminisces, her orotund elocution evocative of an early-talkies star, the film offers glimpses of Manhattan homo redoubts of the 1970s, long since shuttered: the Continental Baths, the West Village cabaret-revival club Reno Sweeney. “This is my city....Its soul comes from the fact of its difficulty,” the lifelong New Yorker tells the German filmmaker, who is as besotted with the metropolis as Brown. Von Praunheim has made several other documentaries centering on intriguing heroines, such as Fassbinder’s Women (2000), but none captures a place and the singular talent that emerged from it quite like Tally Brown, New York. - MA

Melissa Anderson writes about film for Artforum and the Village Voice.

Tickets - $7, available at door.

Please note: seating is limited. First-come, first-served. Box office opens at 7pm.

Print of Tally Brown, New York courtesy of the Reserve Film and Video Collection of The New York Public Library of the Performing Arts.