EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?
|JACK SMITH AND THE DESTRUCTION OF ATLANTIS (director/writer: Mary Jordan; cinematographers: Mary Jordan/Jon Fordham; editor: Alex Marquez; music: Robert Aaron/Joel A. Diamond/Thurston Moore/Devendra Barnhart; cast: John Waters, Jonas Mekas, Mary Woronov, Holly Woodlawn, Mario Montez, Taylor Mead, Gary Indiana, Ken Jacobs, George Kuchar, Judith Malina, Ronald Tavel, Sue Slater, Richard Foreman; Runtime: 98; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Kenneth Peralta/Mary Jordan; New Video; 2006)|
|"Depicted as the uncompromising
artist who went to the grave for his art."
by Dennis Schwartz
biopic on Jack Smith is the debut directorial film for
Mary Jordan, who makes good usage of rare
archival footage, snippets of rarely seen films, audio
recordings, using varied pioneering talking heads
involved in underground film and photographs to tell
the story of the hardly remembered today enigmatic,
notorious and influential gay NYC's underground
filmmaker, photographer and performance
artist. Jack Smith's innovations inspired Andy
Warhol and Federico Fellini, among numerous
underground figures. In fact, it was said everyone
stole from Jack while he remained the pure artist,
refusing to do the commercial things needed to get his
films shown in theaters and thereby was always broke
and unable to have even his shoestring-budget films
funded. Jack completed only one film, "Flaming
Creatures," his Blakean masterpiece, but it had
limited showings because of Jack's poor business
skills and it was censored.
groundbreaking eccentric filmmaker (1932-1989) died
of AIDS. His rants against capitalism, his obsession
with 1940s B-movie actress diva Maria Montez as his
ideal woman and his making 'superstars' of freakish
outcast characters, endeared him to the East Village
crowd and to other free-spirits taking advantage of
the revolutionary times to support the
counter-culture movement and art as camp.
Born in Ohio
but growing up in Texas, Jack came to NYC in the
1950s and opened up a
portrait-photography studio. Jack delighted in getting
his customers to pose in daring erotic costumes and
his portraits, looking like movie publicity photo
stills, gained fame for being chic examples of the
avant-garde. By 1961 Jack transferred his energies
into making underground films, and made Flaming
Creatures by 1963. It had a cast of mostly
drugged-out cross-dressers interacting with one
another in pornographic ways and made a statement
that art was free and for everybody to enjoy. As
John Waters says, showing dicks on screen got it
banned in 22 states.
temperamental artist, never at peace, felt he was
being used by underground insiders like Jonas Mekas
to suck the art out of him and that he was exploited
as they made money off his work without returning
money to the artist who made the film. Jack also was
incensed that his ideas were ripped off by the likes
of Andy Warhol, and that brought out a hatred in him
that prevented him from ever again completing a film
again. He turned to running a weird performance art
theater in his loft and also attempted several films
including the uncompleted "Normal Love."
respectable documentary, Jack is depicted as the
uncompromising artist who went to the grave for his
art--the one who deserves recognition as the real
anti-establishment figure, who was the original King
of the Underground.
The Atlantis in the title is derived from the Maria Montez film, “Siren of Atlantis,” as Jack used the term to be a metaphor for his ideal world where everyone could be free to live their own lives and seek a utopian happiness.
REVIEWED ON 2/28/2013 GRADE: B+
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ