Bette Bourne: It Goes with the Shoes ★★★★

The subtitle of Jeremy Jeffs and Mark Ravenhill’s documentary Bette Bourne: It Goes with the Shoes is an anecdote so delicious, it’d be a crime to reveal it here. It’s emblematic, though, of the vibrant spirit that surges through the film, in large part thanks to Bourne himself. Most of the documentary is narrated through Bourne in various locales, all riffing off the stage show he and Ravenhill put together about his life. Rather than restricting themselves to the stage for the narration, Ravenhill and Jeffs also film Bourne reminiscing in a café, on a walk around London’s streets with Ravenhill, in his flat – the variety gives a nervy energy to the film, as well as a fittingly rehearsed sense to Bourne’s monologues.

Bourne was an actor whose profile was building nicely during the 1960s, before he became involved in the first wave of the Gay Liberation Front and became more concerned with the political and sexual revolutions in the capital. The generous access the directors were obviously granted to Bourne and his friend’s archives infuses the film with a sense of secret history – Ravencliff, also interviewed, admits that he had no idea about the ‘drag commune’ that Bourne lived in for several years. Chronologically tracking Bourne’s life from his wartime childhood to his recent university fellowship, this is a buoyant, constantly entertaining portrait of an underappreciated legend – although you’ll have to make do without having Bourne himself laughing from the audience at his past fashion choices.