Cohen's is a cinema of transience and dissipation, of patient archiving and spontaneous revelation. Drawn to the derelict and dilapidated, he records his subjects - musicians, townscapes - piecemeal over time, sometimes on scraps of different film stock. Cohen and collaborator Peter Stillen outline the bare bones of dissolute drag queen and singer-songwriter Benjamin's biography, mostly as expounded by the man himself: early flirtations with his mother's wardrobe; musical and other adventures fronting the Opal Foxx Quartet and Smoke; his affliction with 'the HIV thing'; his death in 1999, aged 39. Cohen first arrived on the scene in '89, whence the film's scratchy, present tense scrapbook proceeds in fits and starts, with an eye for the changes fermenting in his locale of Cabbagetown, Alabama. Benjamin's music, meanwhile, heard in snatches of rehearsals and shows, occupies that dark hollow between American folk and punk, Harry Smith and Patti Smith.
Jem Cohen, Peter Sillen