American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
Narcissism, that sweet but too-ripe flower, is one of the easiest weaknesses to forgive because it is so clearly born of need. Who can blame another for loving himself? Is this not our own secret sin? And is it not possible to understand the depth of need, the pathos, the sad beauty, of the person who cannot love himself - and must instead love another person, also himself?
Right. And now that we've scared off the sensation-seekers with a paragraph of easy philosophy, let's the rest of us get on to "The Queen," a gutsy, funny, pathetic, really very moving documentary about the 1967 All-America Camp Beauty Pageant. From all over America they came, "each a winner in her own right," the champions in their local contests, hoping to be named the best drag queen of them all.
This is a fairly dicey subject, but director Frank Simon handles it as well as we could hope. Using available sound and light, he sends his 16-mm. cameras creeping into the boudoirs of the contestants and comes back with the startling information that drag queens are very much like the rest of us, and perhaps even more pleasant than the average All-American straight beauty queen.
Any dumb broad can be beautiful, but it takes a bit of thought, an ounce of imagination and even a certain sense of humor to put oneself on the line in a transvestite contest.