Yesterday night I had the chance to see again Shirley Clarke’s astounding masterpiece Portrait of Jason (1967) at Centre Pompidou, presented by Philippe-Alain Michaud. It was the last day of a retrospective devoted to Clarke’s work that I helped curating with the film department of the museum. Shot in night of December 1966 at the Chelsea Hotel in New York, Portrait of Jason records a very special performance by Jason Holliday, a gay black hustler, who happens to be also an amazing actor, interpreting a character in which reality is inseparable from fiction.
This intersection has always been one of Clarke’s main concerns and the film embodies it to a level of perfection that is rarely found in her work. The film perpetually shifts from moments of great amusement to other of deep angst, and the camera stays with no mercy on her subject, Jason Holliday’s face. Here I have drawn Jason facing the camera and holding one of the many cigarettes smoked during that night.
This masterpiece was recently restored by Academy Film Archive and re-released by Milestone Films. It will come out soon in France as well, distributed by Les Films du Camélia. The film has also been bought by the Centre Pompidou film collection.