LETTERBOXD Reviews Susanne Bartsch: On Top

The debut feature from filmmaking duo Anthony&Alex tells the outrageous true story of Susanne Bartsch. As a nightlife maven and fashion icon, her life is unlike anything you've ever seen before.

The Swiss native has, for the past 30 years, been known as the "Queen of the Night." She changed the nightclub scene in New York in 1986 with her own special events. As drag icon RuPaul says in the film, "Suzanne picked up where Warhol left off." Kicking off a post-Studio 54 era, she emphasized fashion and uniqueness at all times, often going for a full-scale theatrical experience.

Her home in the infamous Chelsea Hotel is a never-ending archive of her achievements. This film attempts to tell these stories by using the curation of an exhibition of her party outfits for the Fashion Institute of Technology as an anchor. Her explicit attention to detail and copious amounts of photographs and video footage illustrate her unquestionable influence.

Bartsch's life was at least temporarily sidelined by her passion and empathy for others as the AIDS epidemic ravaged her circle of friends in New York. Referring to it as a "cultural holocaust," Bartsch never wavered in her commitment to helping her friends and, in 1989, she hosted an event called the Love Ball at Roseland Ballroom that raised millions for AIDS research through major corporate sponsors while first putting the spotlight on the Harlem drag balls that inspired Madonna's "Vogue."

While never exactly going down a normal path, Bartsch still got married to a bodybuilder and had a child named Bailey who praises his parents' unconventional lifestyles.

Before the film ends, it devotes time to interviews with many gay and gender non-conforming people who have attended Barsch's events over the years who express their gratitude. One man notes that when you went to one of her parties, you "didn't have to hide, at least for one night.

Source: https://letterboxd.com/film/susanne-bartsc...