The ghosts of barflies’ past haunt Playland, “a transdisciplinary work of queer bricolage” by filmmaker Georden West. The film takes place inside the empty husk of the Playland Café, Boston’s oldest and most notorious gay hangout space. The cafe shut down in the late ‘90s, but West stages one last bawdy night on the town for the generations of drag queens, disco DJs, leatherdykes, and sissies who made Playland their home, creating an atemporal zone where queer ancestors can come out to play.
Featuring storylines set in 1943, 1965, 1977, and 1992, Playland takes a multimedia approach to storytelling. The film combines archival audio and home video footage with artistically realized vignettes that combine refined aesthetics and bold stylization. (There’s a floor show as well, of course.) At turns wistful, joyful, and brimming with righteous anger, Playland embraces the criminal queerness of the past, paying tribute to groundbreaking gay elders and creating a nostalgic fantasia of an era that had its beauty as well as its black eyes.––Casey Baron