Delicious disillusionment

People love illusion, right? Everyone craves the chance, however briefly, to revel in an limitless, immortal, imagined world of beauty and youth and flawless floosies flouncing around rooftops in loo-roll-holder frocks. Why else would I love Vogue? Wrong. What we really love is its breach, its failure: the slipped mask, the ragged old diva, the little dystopia that mistakenly thought it could. The perfume of romance is not Chanel No 5 but  the backstage spice of paste and powder; it's why we love Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge and hate his stupid ad. The real joy of Vogue lies in its tight-rope walk between the ridiculous and the sublime, teetering on a pair of the emperor's new stilettos which may or may not be revolting, but are some kind of wonderful nonetheless.

This is why I love Steve Shapiro's recently released limited edition Godfather Family Album. Captured off-guard as giggling kids, tracksuited veterans and anxious, vulnerable craftsmen, Coppola's stars have never looked more magnetic. It's not ALL I want for Christmas, but at £400, it'd be a start.

Another masterpiece of disillusionment is the intellectually flimsy but emotionally strapping Wig Out, Tarell Alvin McCraney's Royal Court musical about the New York drag scene. His ripped, snake-hipped, neurotic queens live on a knife-edge of effortful semblance, compulsively darning the tinsel tapestry of their unspooling selves in a world where your best-by date is shorter than an M&S mince pie. It's enough to make a threadbare Blonde cry.

Of course, there are limits. Imperfection only really has pathos and power when it is framed or staged within the context of projected perfection, like a Shapiro photograph or a McCraney play. Just being an ugly failure, a predictably mortal mortal, has no poetry. Magic lies neither in the wholly fantastic nor the wholly prosaic, but in the chiaroscuric tension between the two.

Smooth on the lipstick, then smudge.