"I think I learned already just by being old that you can’t stop making the music part. Every time you try to stop because you hate life, you hate everyone you work with, you hate yourself. Can’t stop. Don’t work, either," says Benjamin with a voice aged with experience.

Benjamin Smoke is a home-film, not a documentary. Documentaries Jem Cohen and Peter Sillen followed Benjamin (no last name given) on and off for ten years, recording ——like you would your child——his parties, his recitals, his rehearsals, his life. His twisted life. What’s unfurled in the film is one of those "This is your life" Bar Mitzvah videos that would play at a funeral. Benjamin is that filmed member of your family that the stuffy adults would rather not talk about, the kids can’t get enough of, and the teenagers laugh at but secretly admire.

Smoke is Benjamin’s band, a forum of expression for a life touched by HIV, cross-dressing, poverty, drugs and Patti Smith. Benjamin seems to be free of self-judgment and the film echoes their subject’s unabashed nature. In the DVD’s excellent 45 minutes of extra footage, Benjamin is asked when he started to wear a dress: he shrugs that dresses are less constricting in the crotch area than pants, it’s easier to pee, and that girls get to wear all kinds of neat things on their dresses, "like polka dots."

"Since I’m me," Benjamin says, "I get to do anything I want to. Sort of."

Ten years is a long time, and contradictions, "sort-ofs," naturally occur. But this is an existence, not a documentary, a narrative with a theme. Benjamin, explored by the filmmakers, fluidly waves between his quote, "If you can’t be careful, be on the news."

Movie Grade: A

DVD Grade: B