Ramon Fernandez’s Glory Daze: The Life and Times of Michael Alig is two and a quarter hours crime documentary that details the meteoric rise and shocking fall of Michael Alig in the New York nightlife scene of the mid 80’s to the mid 90’s.
For those unfamiliar with the fated tale of Michael Alig, his story began as an ostracized boy in Indiana who sought a place where his sexual orientation and free spirit would be accepted. After moving to New York, he would later become prominent in the nightlife scene for several years until the murder of a friend promptly ruined his reputation and career. The film is comprised of inside interviews with Michael’s closest friends, people in the club business at the time like Patricia Field, Kenny Kenny, Johnny Dynell, Michael Musto, R. Couri Hay and Steve Lewis, the law enforcement involved in his arrest, as well as the man himself as they piece together an accurate depiction of the events in very grave detail. The film is split into three general parts, the origin and rise of Michael, the murder of his friend Angel, and the aftermath after years in prison. Not having heard or known of his story, Fernandez brings an extremely detailed telling of events.
This is Fernandez’s first full-length project in film as a director, writer, producer, and editor. In a few ways, he has excelled in his rather large undertaking. The use of many perspectives in a crime documentary and biographical piece such as this does the benefit of offering many sides to his complex story. However, it also carries the hazard of retelling the same story many times, which is especially the case for much of the first fifty minutes of the film, and true for most of the rest of it. The audience is able to grasp who Michael is and his great achievements in his field without the day-to-day description of his life and exploits. Often times the film feels unwieldy and unedited as well as gives the impression that this is more of a director’s cut for die-hard fans of Michael Alig and less of a film for the general audience. In the first half of the film, Fernandez masterfully cuts to black at key moments to add emphasis to shocking details or distinct changes. However, as the film progresses, his continued use of this technique feels sudden, abrupt, and rather unnatural.
The use of pictures and videos to juxtapose the world of Michael and the world today serve for making a more visceral understanding of the changes in the past twenty-five years. While Fernandez manages to squeeze every drop out the story one possibly could, the film is entirely too long and would benefit from stronger editing. But if you’re interested in learning the tragic and complete story of Michael Alig, this is the movie for you.
The film had its world premiere during the 9th Annual Manhattan Film Festival on Saturday, June 20 at The Players Theatre in New York.