Review: “PTown Diaries,” Documentary on the “Freest Place in America” says Norman Mailer

P-Town Diaries Reviewed
by Larry Murray

If our Pilgrim fathers and mothers returned to see what became of the barren beach where they first landed in America, they simply wouldn’t believe it. Other than a few beach plums, there was little on that sandy spit of land where Provincetown now welcomes the touristy mobs. Watching the documentary that Joseph Mantegna has put together you can tell that this is not your usual visitor come on, filled with lush beaches, sparkling sand and overly glittery hotels. Honey, Provincetown has turned into an artists colony, and the gay Mecca of the northeast. Laying side by side on those beaches, next to families camping in Wiggins Wagons and children scampering down Commercial Street is the LGBT community in all its glorious drag, shimmering muscled guys, and girls, enjoying what Norman Mailer calls “The freest place in America.”

Fire Island you have been warned, and for our lovely Berkshires, this is where the LGBT community goes to get away from the clones and bar scene. In PTown they party hearty, sleep it off on the beach, and then get all glorified for Tea Dance at the Boatslip. Looking at the film, you may laugh, and truth be told, in the summer there are more great comics in PTown than there ever were in the Catskills in the 50’s.

Cuba Libra’s film takes you to the heart of extreme vacationing, with, who else, Alan Cumming narrating. Welcome to Cabaret, Cape Cod style. The doc also takes you along to the seafaring part of life there, where whale-watching is as popular as bear-and-cub watching, and the performers are right out on the street, hustling tickets for their evening shows. In Provincetown the entertainment is day and night.

For the more serious, the art scene is impressive, not only for the literary lights that reside there, but for the history of theatre which includes Eugene O’Neill and the Provincetown Theatre. Filmmaker John Waters can be seen riding his bike all over town, and in the restaurants and bars you could bump into any number of familiar names. In years past, Tennessee Williams drank at the A House, while Jackson Pollock, Norman Mailer and Michael Cunningham strolled the streets.

It seems there is a week for every subgroup imaginable, Women’s Week, Fantasy Fair for cross dressers, Bear Week, and even a week for LGBT’s who have taken up a life of sobriety. Carnival Week sees floats and bands, and once The Blessing of the Fleet kicked off the summer season.

With on-camera interviews with Mailer and Cunningham, the film portrays the little town up close and personal, perhaps a lot closer to the action than some tourists get driving down Commercial Street with their windows rolled up, all the better to avoid getting involved with the local wildlife.

They don’t know what they are missing. Now that it is off-season, you can relive those golden days in the sun with this superb documentary, while making plans to visit again next Spring when the guest houses repair the ravages of winter, plant their gardens and roll out the welcome mat. In PTown Diaries, the sun shines year round.

Cinema Libre Studio‘s PTOWN DIARIES narrated by Alan Cumming, 89 minutes.

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