JOBRIATH A.D. (Kieran Turner) Rating: NNN
The rapid rise and fall of the first openly gay rock star is a fascinating story, but unfortunately it's clumsily told in Keiran Turner's doc. The film is packed with great interviews and archival footage but held back by badly integrated animated interludes and heavy-handed narration. Nevertheless, it's a heartbreaking study of fame, hype and homophobia.
Jobriath was a talented pianist and singer/songwriter who jumped from his role in Broadway's Hair to a major label record deal in 1970s Manhattan. His ambitious huckster of a manager, Jerry Brandt, badly overestimating how receptive America would be to a proudly out queer glam rocker, put so much hype behind the performer that a massive backlash was inevitable.
You can't help but think of internet-fuelled buzz acts like Lana Del Rey, but in this case massive billboard and bus ads drove the hype cycle. Even though Jobriath's career ended before it began, he did manage to influence contemporary queer artists like the Scissor Sisters (whose singer Jake Shears appears in the film).
The bigger problem, of course, was that people like David Bowie and the New York Dolls could get away with playing gay in the 70s, but only as a performance. The world just wasn't ready for a strange creature billed as the "true fairy of rock 'n' roll."
Screens Saturday (May 26) at the TIFF Bell Lightbox as part of the Inside Out Festival.