Saturday, March 13, 2010

Portrait of Jason

The Outfest Fusion Festival is this weekend, and Brandy and I headed over to the Egyptian to check out their Legacy screening of the 1967 documentary, Portrait of Jason. This movie's completely new to me; although it apparently has a certain reputation, it was mentioned that screenings of it are rare, and it doesn't seem to be available on DVD in the States.

Portrait of Jason is a 100-minute monologue by Jason Holiday, an aging hustler who proceeds to drink his way through cocktail after cocktail until he finally gives up on the highball glass and picks up the bottle. It's a wild ride; one that kind of traces the peaks and valleys of a night of heavy drinking. Shirley Clarke, the filmmaker, tries to be unobtrusive, but Jason's friend, Carl Lee, who's heard but never seen, is less successful, eventually berating him for withholding information, for play-acting for the camera, for his dishonesty. It's as much a meditation on an attempt to capture the essence of an elusive subject as it is a potent character study. It's also a stunning document of a pre-Stonewall gay experience.

Click here for a nice essay on the film.

Jason's amazing -- a natural raconteur and performer, wicked, wry, tough, and sad -- and I'm thrilled to have found a couple of clips from the movie online. See below.


groove68 said...

Watch Shirley Clarke's documentary about Ornette Coleman as video on demand

-K- said...

Fascinating guy tho I suspect he did not come to a good end.

I've always heard about Shirley Clarke (and was briefly a friend of her sister, the novelist Elaine Dundy, for a while) but until now I've never seen any of her work.