Portrait of Jason. 1967. USA. Directed by Shirley Clarke. 35mm. 103 min.
A stuffy room at the Chelsea Hotel is the stage for the magnetic Jason Holliday and his profound discourses on sexuality, race, and class. Over the course of a long December night auteur Shirley Clarke crafts a singular commentary on cinematic spectatorship as she and her partner, Carl Lee, train the camera’s gaze on Jason while he tells us stories: his upbringing as a queer black man, aspirations of being a cabaret dancer, otherness in a ceaselessly hostile world. When refraction from Jason’s fervency threatens to reveal their intentions, Clarke and Lee warp their own notions of authorship, confronting Jason from behind the camera in increasingly lacerating ways. Portrait of Jason is a herald of modern identity politics, in which Clarke fires a dire warning shot about the differences between representation and characterization. Print courtesy of Milestone Films.