UC Berkeley Library

A Portrait of Jason.

"Filmed in one wild night at New York's Chelsea Hotel, Shirley Clarke's explosive Portrait of Jason is a landmark of nonfiction film, the combination of a visionary director, a complex and enigmatic subject, and a moment of new cinematic and social possibilities. Jason Holliday is an unapologetically gay cabaret performer with charisma to spare, a knack for drama, and a life that's provided him with plenty of stories to tell about racism, homophobia, parental abuse, show business, drugs, sex, prostitution, the law, and whatever else he can think of while the cameras are rolling. Jason is endlessly entertaining; he sings, tells his stories, performs, breaks down, gets back up, keeps going. But he is as elusive as he is talented, and the more intimate the details he reveals, the less clear his "identity" becomes. As the night goes on he plays an increasingly intense game of cat-and-mouse with the filmmakers, who can be heard egging him on from behind the camera. The climax of the film is a shocking attempt by the crew to break through the layers of Jason's charisma to reveal the person underneath." A film by Shirley Clarke. 1967. 105 min.
Reviews and articles: Sutpen, Tom. "Dancing and Dirging with Jason." Bright Lights Film Journal, May 2005 | Issue 48 Full-text of this article / review is available: