|PORTRAIT OF JASON (director: Shirley Clarke; cinematographer: Jeri Sapanen; editor: Shirley Clarke; cast: Jason Holliday; Runtime: 107; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Shirley Clarke; Milestone; 1967)|
|"This unscripted and
uncompromising study of a self-proclaimed
street hustler is a fine example of the
pioneering film movement of cinema verité."
by Dennis Schwartz
experimental filmmaker Shirley Clarke ("The
Cool World"/"Ornette"/"The Connection"), one of the
founders of vital archive, directs this landmark
documentary conversation piece film, that has as its
subject the fascinating black hustler, homosexual,
pill popper, boozer and aspiring nightclub performer,
Jason Holliday, aka Aaron Payne. He tells us how
someone he trusted in San Francisco christened him
with his new name, and he loved it because it
energized him. On the evening of 12/3/1966
Clarke and crew filmed the middle-aged,
bespectacled, Jason for twelve straight hours. He incessantly
talked about his life experiences while interviewed by
the unseen Clarke and her crew in her Chelsea
Hotel apartment. Jason is never off camera for the
entire 107 minutes.
not a film that will please all or does it take sides
with any of the morality questions that arise, instead
it lets Jason say what's ever on his mind with no
interference. Jason's soulful trip on the dark side
may be upsetting, as he colorfully, pulling no
punches, explores what it's like to be black, a male
prostitute and gay in the America of the 1960s--a time
when homosexuality was illegal and the country still
had deep rooted racial issues both in the north and
south. Such a frank portrait at the time was unheard
of and was shocking. Even though the film has in
today's world lost its shock appeal, it still stands
out as a riveting subject study that captures our
underground feature was unavailable for years until
recently restored by the Academy Film Archive,
Milestone Films and Modern Videofilm.
with a nervous habit of always laughing in a
self-mocking way at what he says, held court while
openly telling of his nightclub
aspirations and the stories behind his funky life.
This unscripted and uncompromising study of a
self-proclaimed street hustler is a fine example of
the pioneering film movement of cinema verité.
In the gist of the film Jason tells of his childhood
adventures, his experience as a houseboy to the rich,
his maddening sessions with shrinks and many of the
disturbing experiences he encountered as he tried to
avoid at all costs supporting himself with a straight
job where he would have to punch a clock.
The gifted story teller tells us in all sincerity the little white lie that "I’ve spent so much of my life being sexy, as you can see, that I haven’t gotten anything else done."
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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