An interview with Jason Holliday aka Aaron Payne: a house boy, would-be cabaret performer, and self-proclaimed hustler giving one man’s gin-soaked, pill-popped view of what it was like to be colored and gay in 1960s America.
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In the end a cruel portrait by Shirley Clarke that exposes and strips down a self mythologizing man who is more hustler than artist. Fascinating and enthralling in the early reels until one realizes the artifice before it becomes exploitive and self serving in the final moments. '...that's it , it's over, the end...'
Hadn't seen it in well over a decade. Saw it projected on 35mm last night. Jason lives forever. The skull often seen behind him on Shirley Clarke's shelf reminding us of the fact that he will in another sense very much not. Portrait of Jason is about performance and the death drive. It is more devastating then I remember, though I recalled that it was unkind. Jason lives forever. Whatever Jason is. We will all die.
"[POJ] gets you thinking about essential issues that most nonfiction naively or cynically ignores. It raises profound questions about the nature of the self, the relationship between fiction and reality, and the way that film doesn't simply record raw truth but shapes it into something reflecting the filmmaker's vision of life." -John Powers, NPR. Hence Clarke's portrait of Jason's portrait of Jason. Mesmerizing.
How one feels about this movie probably depends on ow one feels about Aaron/Jason. Not many movie stars can hold an audience's attention for 105 minutes. That includes Aaron/Jason. After 10 minutes I was bored by him. By the end he was a pathetic creation, masquerading as someone who he thinks might be interesting.
Its failings notwithstanding I'm looking forward to seeing more from Shirley Clarke.
its a time capsule. that part is fascinating. of any facet of society-we dont see enough of these. specific to this film-people think depravity is a new problem, or unique, or doesnt damage the person who surrenders to it. none of that is true.
Glad I finally got to see this after hearing about it some time ago. Such an effective (and sometimes uncomfortable) look at an electric personality. Holliday spouts off his philosophies and talks about his life in a combination of joy, sadness, anger, and braggadocio. We see multiple sides of a person, a charming performer, a wounded drunk, all pieces that make up an interesting life worth watching.