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Circus of Books

This documentary is about Karen and Barry Mason, a heterosexual married couple with children who found themselves owning the Circus of Books, a store that sold gay pornography and that was a congregation place for the gay community in the ’80s and ’90s. The film is really fascinating. It provides an interesting slice of the history of the gay community in an era when pornography was illegal in many states and during the height of the AIDS epidemic. What is more fascinating is the story of how these two came to own the bookstore (there were two of them) and how they became the hub of the gay community. There are multiple stories threaded through the common one, and the telling of those stories provides a very rich and multilayered story. I won’t give away the surprises that unfold, because that is part of the fun of watching the movie. It is filmed by Karen and Barry’s daughter, and she interviews her parents, siblings, family friends, and former employees who provide their perspectives. Thumbs up from me for a film that may not interest everyone given the subject matter but will certainly be of interest to my LGBTQ friends. I remember Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood, which I thought was a terrible film; this one is much, much better, and much more interesting. (2019; 3.5 Stars)

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