Monday, August 19, 2013

Portrait of Jason (1967)

WHO: Shirley Clarke directed this film, and Jason Holliday is in practically every frame of it..

WHAT: I saw this film at SFMOMA in 2009, partially under advisement from my friend Brecht Andersch, who wrote these words as part of a more extensive article at the time:
In 1967, when Clarke’s documentary Portrait of Jason hit the theaters, it was undoubtedly a shock. While gay films of the exuberantly campy, fantastical variety had been bubbling up from the 16mm Underground, Jason was the first of these to “get serious”. Adopting the mantle of cinéma-vérité (truth film), and appearing in art houses blown up to 35mm, Jason confronted adventurous viewers with a wholly new cinematic experience: 100 minutes on the silver screen of a talented, tortured, yet unabashed black queen more than ready for her close-up in the one-woman show of a lifetime. The film’s proceedings have lost none of their power to enthrall and disturb.
WHERE/WHEN: Currently in the middle of a Roxie Theater week-long run, it screens nightly at 7:00. through Thursday.

WHY: Last summer it was The Connection, and the fall brought us Ornette Made in America. Portrait of Jason marks the third of five features made by the great New York City filmmaker Shirley Clarke during her turbulent career. All three were restored and made available by Milestone Film & Video, and will hopefully be followed by a theatrical and DVD release of perhaps Clarke's most urgent piece of filmmaking, The Cool World (produced by Frederick Wiseman). I also wouldn't mind having a chance to see Robert Frost: A Lover's Quarrel With The World (perhaps accompanied by one or more of Clarke's experimental short films) in a cinema sometime soon, even though it's already been released on DVD by the company.  In the meantime, a week-long engagement of Portrait of Jason is something to cheer about, share with friends and neighbors, and support in any way conceivable. Thanks, Milestone & Roxie, for giving us this opportunity!

HOW: 35mm print.

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