LIMELIGHT – Retroview by Jennifer Merin

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Filmmaker Billy Corben’s glitzy documentary, Limelight, follows the rise and demise of New York club lord, Peter Gatien, who ruled the city’s nightlife during the 1980s, until his trend-setting establishments, including the eponymous Limelight, were shut down by officials who accused Gatien and his crew of employees of using the popular premises to distribute illegal drugs.

During his reign, Gatien was a master manipulator of New York culture. Every night of the week, tens of thousands of his followers flocked to Gatien’s clubs for their recreation of choice.

Limelight, released in 2011, is as much about drug culture as it is about Gatien’s rise and demise. And, the drug theme is reflected in the film’s style: Gatien and others are photographed so they appear slightly distorted. Their images are enhanced with colors suggesting psychedelics at play. They’re situated in psychedelically suggestive settings. The style of this film about drugs is, well, druggy.

For Limelight, druggy style and drugs as subject should be a neat fit. But this rather obvious choice is actually quite confusing, quite disorienting for the audience. Does Corben address us as witnesses to his revelation of truths, or does he intend to transport us to one the clubs for a psychedelic encounter with a bygone ambience? I suspect Corben suspect hasn’t thought much about that. Continue reading on CINEMA CITIZEN.

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Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin is the Film Critic for Womens eNews and contributes the CINEMA CITIZEN blog for and is managing editor for Women on Film, the online magazine of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, of which she is President. She has served as a regular critic and film-related interviewer for The New York Press and About.com. She has written about entertainment for USA Today, The L.A. Times, US Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Endless Vacation Magazine, Daily News, New York Post, SoHo News and other publications. After receiving her MFA from Tisch School of the Arts (Grad Acting), Jennifer performed at the O'Neill Theater Center's Playwrights Conference, Long Wharf Theater, American Place Theatre and LaMamma, where she worked with renown Japanese director, Shuji Terayama. She subsequently joined Terayama's theater company in Tokyo, where she also acted in films. Her journalism career began when she was asked to write about Terayama for The Drama Review. She became a regular contributor to the Christian Science Monitor after writing an article about Marketta Kimbrell's Theater For The Forgotten, with which she was performing at the time. She was an O'Neill Theater Center National Critics' Institute Fellow, and then became the institute's Coordinator. While teaching at the Universities of Wisconsin and Rhode Island, she wrote "A Directory of Festivals of Theater, Dance and Folklore Around the World," published by the International Theater Institute. Denmark's Odin Teatret's director, Eugenio Barba, wrote his manifesto in the form of a letter to "Dear Jennifer Merin," which has been published around the world, in languages as diverse as Farsi and Romanian. Jennifer's culturally-oriented travel column began in the LA Times in 1984, then moved to The Associated Press, LA Times Syndicate, Tribune Media, Creators Syndicate and (currently) Arcamax Publishing. She's been news writer/editor for ABC Radio Networks, on-air reporter for NBC, CBS Radio and, currently, for Westwood One's America In the Morning. She is also a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. For her AWFJ archive, type "Jennifer Merin" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).