10 Portrait of Jason

Discuss DVDs and Blu-rays released by Second Run and the films on them.
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#1 Post by Matt » Sat Jul 30, 2005 4:45 pm

Portrait of Jason


Portrait of Jason is the raw record of a confessional conversation with an African-American gay hustler recounting his life and times. A disturbing and fascinating document, it unflinchingly observes Jason Holliday - conversing, performing, confessing, dissolving.

Shirley Clarke was a key figure in the American avant-garde and has been an influence on filmmakers and video artists over the last 40 years. Available for the first time ever on DVD, Portrait of Jason is a counter-culture classic and a landmark in American independent cinema.

Special Features

• New digital transfer of the fully-restored film print prepared by the Film Department of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York.
• Introduction to the film by artist Wendy Clarke, daughter of Shirley Clarke.
• Wendy Clarke's acclaimed video project Love Tapes, including Shirley Clarke's personal Love Tape.
• Booklet featuring a new Essay on the film by Tony Rayns; and an essay by Tom Sutpen.
• Optimal quality dual-layer disc

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#2 Post by rs98762001 » Tue Sep 20, 2005 12:49 pm

I am really looking forward to this. The extra Clarke family material should be a treat, and hopefully MOMA has done a bang-up job with the print restoration. Again, kudos to Second Run for giving so much care and attention to these (no longer) forgotten gems.

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#3 Post by rs98762001 » Sun Sep 25, 2005 7:40 pm

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#4 Post by antnield » Tue Oct 04, 2005 1:26 pm

Review now up at DVD Times. Another great release from Second Run :D

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#5 Post by Bikey » Wed Oct 05, 2005 11:09 am

Review from Time Out (London):

DVD Of The Week (5/6)
For some time, a number of DVD labels - Artificial Eye, the BFI, Optimum and Tartan included - have been putting out good arthouse, archive, avant-garde fare, but special meniton should perhaps go to Eureka's 'Masters Of Cinema' series - October releases include Murnau's 'Sunrise', Inamura's 'Vengeance Is Mine' and Peter Watkins 'Punishment Park' - and Second Run which is making a real virtue out of bringing out comparatively (but undeservedly) unfamiliar titles by directors otherwise barely represented (if at all) on disc. Second Run has a particular liking for Eastern Europe, it seems, and a new batch of releases includes 'The Ear' (Czechoslovlakia), 'Interrogation' (Poland) and 'Another Way' (Hungary). But the best of the latest bunch is surely Shirley Clarke's 'Portrait Of Jason', a documentary made in 1967 and once praised by Ingmar Bergman as the most fascinating film he'd ever seen.

Certainly, it must have seemed amazing at the time of its making, since the whole film simply records a straight-to-camera conversation-cum-confession-cum-star-turn, shot in one room from one Jason Holliday. Actually, his given name was Aaron - being a fortysomething gay black hustler in the pre-gay lib '60s wasn't easy, as his memories of an Alabama childhood make horribly clear - but that didn't prevent him from giving Clarke (occasionally heard off-screen) a performance of blistering social, sexual and other truths, notwithstanding his regular-as-clockwork resort to camp artifice (fab impersonations of Mae West included) and hysterics (in both senses of the word). It's an unforgettably vivid portrait of pride, guilt, forlorm longing and bitchy contempt that provides acute insights into issues of race, sex, class, age and celebrity; Warhol's influence is discernible throughout. The superior extras include footage of and by Clarke's daughter Wendy and a booklet comprising fine essays by Tony Rayns and Tom Sutpen.
- Geoff Andrew (Time Out)

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#6 Post by zedz » Tue Oct 25, 2005 11:23 pm

This is an amazing film and an excellent disc. The transfer is very good, true to the roughness of the original film. That roughness is partly the point, as Clarke is meticulous in preserving the integrity of Jason's performance at the expense of technical finesse. Thus, when the camera runs out of film while Jason's on a roll, the soundtrack continues over black. For much of its length, the film and Jason are hysterical (in more ways than one), but the uncomfortable ending forces us to reconsider the previous entertainment and the context in which it was created.

Wendy Clarke's intro and video work go well with the feature. The Love Tapes take a very different route to a similar destination as the feature.

Yet another triumph for Second Run. Their discs may not be loaded with extras, but so far every extra I've seen has been well-chosen and well-executed. I'd much rather have a short, informative introduction than yet another vapid making-of puff piece or a mediocre commentary.

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#7 Post by domino harvey » Tue Sep 18, 2007 2:50 am

zedz wrote: For much of its length, the film and Jason are hysterical (in more ways than one), but the uncomfortable ending forces us to reconsider the previous entertainment and the context in which it was created.
You're absolutely right. I just saw this and that last reel is something of a punch to the stomach, it turned an interesting film into a profoundly disturbing one. What an amazing, unforgettable experience this film is!

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Re: 10 Portrait of Jason

#8 Post by Bikey » Wed Mar 24, 2010 1:25 pm

Glenn Kenny waxes lyrical about Portrait of Jason at The Auteurs

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Re: 10 Portrait of Jason

#9 Post by Duncan Hopper » Wed Mar 24, 2010 1:42 pm

I forgot to say that Portrait of Janson was showing at the BFI London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival on Saturday. If I remember correctly, it also showed at last years BFI London Film festival?

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Re: 10 Portrait of Jason

#10 Post by Dick Laurent » Wed Mar 02, 2011 8:57 am

Second Run's website now lists this title as out of print, so get this before it's to late !

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Re: 10 Portrait of Jason

#11 Post by knives » Sat May 14, 2011 4:21 am

Only the eleventh post for a film that has so much to talk about, once again I nod my head in shame. Aren't we the forum that's suppose to lift unfairly obscure stuff like this to new heights. Anyways I just have to talk about this after seeing it. I've heard many a person tell their life story, but no monologue has struck me as deeply as this one. Of course a lot of the old queens gab off about a lot of the same things that are discussed here, but the order of it and just the way Jason brings it to the next level is absolutely amazing. In just one sentence like a snap he can hit every emotion in the book. It's clear he's been practicing for decades and he's mastered the audience even as it becomes more clear as the film goes by that he hasn't mastered himself.

What really helps Jason along is that this is a film. It's not just shooting a drunk with an interesting story, but the movie becomes a part of the story in the most amazing sorts of way. Jason starts off so strong, but by the end of things he's fragile and thin wasting away into the movie until they become one abstract auroral experience. He sort of just becomes the celluloid. His monologue here just seems like a last breathe before a cinematic suicide. With that last fadeout comes the end of Jason.

The last twenty minutes of the film are a killing that like mentioned in the only other posts to talk about this great film lifts it to a whole other level. we have a man who shows himself a success at failure, but that failure hurts, cuts, kills. I'm really surprised it took that much Vodka and twelve hours to get to the point he is at during the end of the film. No where before does he show a sign of that explosion which only makes it more powerful. Is there any honesty to his life or is he just the character that the people he knows have made for him. The existential crisis presented is so shocking and disturbing that it is only because of the hour of false laughs that come before it can anyone survive.

Jason seems to be a mirror, as a way of asking how much of our personality is also a lie projected and formed by others. To what degree has anyone lived their life not as this extreme fainting nomad, but even in the small ways like Jason. The constructs just seem to build up until they have to tumble and than you die. All of this is based around the reprise of that insanity story which at first seems like an other quirky little lark in the life of an everywhere man, but than we return to see just how much that story is destroying him.

I really do have to thank Shirley Clarke for this too as she turns this into a real movie. Every amateur aspect is an aid that builds to a stronger story. Just for never allowing the mike to become visible as Jason runs every which way deserves some acclaim. I already talked a little about the way the fade in and outs seem to represent Jason's place in his story, but the way she gives structure to all of this material is phenomenal. I'm assuming she organized everything based around when he said them with little to no reshuffling of the material. even than though she builds to a place and around an emotional state. The way the story is told makes sense structurally in a way that only recently has become popular. It's non-linear, goes off on the wildest tangents, and occasionally seems random but it does take us over an arc to certain emotions that open up the themes I tried to express earlier. Every tale is needed to make the final tale one of the greatest stories ever told.

I don't know why this went out of print, but this really is a movie that everyone has to see at least once. I hope you guys who haven't do before that becomes an improbability.

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