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Uploaded by : Marc Lafia | 10/14/09

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  • Title:
    Portrait of Jason
  • Artist:
  • Year:
    1967
  • Description:
    Clarke's filmed conversation with her friend Jason Holliday is a fascinating document of one man and the way he sees himself in society. Jason grew up in the rough, rural Southern USA, where he not only had to deal with anti-black racism, but the pressure of growing up gay in a household dominated by an aggressive, proud father. He left home as a young man and travelled across the country, often hustling or working as a houseboy for rich white families, all the while holding his dream of being a nightclub performer close to his heart. It's these experiences that inform Jason's character, and he is magnetic. The success of the film depends on his 'performance' for the camera, and he acts out each anecdote as if he were constantly living them, embellishing every detail with wit and energy. It's extremely difficult not to warm to him. His comfort in front of the camera makes it easy to forget that we're watching a film: more like we're in the room with him. And, indeed, even when the camera occasionally runs out of film and a new reel has to be found, the sound remains largely continuous. It's like driving through a tunnel while talking on your mobile phone, losing the connection briefly, those few tense seconds where you wonder if the other person is still on the line. So immediate. The film does have a progression, of sorts, spurned on by Jason's (and also, I'm assuming, the crew's) copious intake of alcohol and pot. As his behaviour in front of the camera begins to dissolve into fits of laughter and half-formed sentences, we hear more and more voices from behind the camera. The tone becomes uncomfortable, as the film becomes less of a social document and more of a private, and very real, drama. In a way, it exposes the voyeurism implicit in all documentary film-making, but laid bare for us because there is a sense that this is not something we are meant to see, something that we wouldn't normally be allowed to see in a portrait such as this. But what Clarke and Holliday give us is the closest to a complete picture of the man as it would be possible to get. The intimacy of the situation and Jason's willingness to delve deep inside himself and talk about everything, about what it means to be him, makes for a powerful film.
  • Disciplines and Movements:
    FILM and Independent Film
  • Themes and Tags:
    no themes

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