A landmark of non-fiction film, Shirley Clarke’s “Portrait Of Jason” (a film I first saw in a rare screening at in NYC 4+ years ago, from a not-so good print), was shot in Clarke’s apartment in the Chelsea Hotel during a 12-hour period, beginning on the evening of December 3, 1966.
The feature film was brought back to life by Milestone Films and the Academy Film Archive, in a multi-year endeavor that included a late 2012 Kickstarter campaign that raised over $26,000, that resulted in a beautifully-restored print of a film that the late Ingmar Bergman called “the most fascinating I’ve ever seen,” which would then be re-released in theaters in 2013, en route to a home video (blu-ray/DVD) release of the film late in 2014.
The film is, as the title suggests, a portrait of Jason Holliday (real name: Aaron Payne) – a flamboyant, charismatic cabaret performer. Filmed over the course of one night at the Chelsea Hotel, in New York City, Holliday dishes on a myriad of topics: racism, homophobia, parental abuse, show business, drugs, sex, prostitution, the law, and much more. As the night progresses, he pretty much tells the story of his life, gets increasingly intoxicated, and thus raw with his revelations, eventually ending up in quite an intensely emotionally vulnerable state.
It’s a fascinating, must-see “confessional,” if you will.
And now a filmmaker named Stephen Winter has produced a fictionalized account of those real-life 12 hours between Holliday and Clarke in 1966.
As director Winters says, his film “re-imagines the electrifying 1966 power struggle between Jason Holliday, a destitute, black middle-aged homosexual, and Jewish, wealthy, Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Shirley Clarke over the 12-hour marathon filming session in the Chelsea Hotel which gave rise to Clarke’s iconic 1967 documentary ‘Portrait of Jason.'”
His motivations for making the film include his desire to “settle the 50-year ‘exploitation’ controversy that swirls around Shirley Clarke’s documentary and the consequent erasure of Jason Holliday as a powerful, and wholly relevant cultural figure.”
The film, titled “Jason and Shirley,” is complete, and is now set to open theatrically at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, for a 1-week run from 10/20 – 10/27.
Below you will find a teaser trailer for the scripted feature film; and underneath, a clip from the original Shirley Clarke 1966 recording.
Here’s a clip from Shirley Clarke’s original documentary: