Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Jason & Shirley (2015)

Fictional retelling of what happened when Academy Award winning filmmaker Shirley Clarke invited black gay queen Jason Holliday to her Chelsea Hotel home. The meeting was filmed and the 12 hours of film was cut down to an 105 minute feature called PORTRAIT OF JASON. The film drifts in and out of reality and imagines the behind the scene clashes between Jason, Shirley and her crew.

I have to confess that I have not seen PORTRAIT OF JASON and until this film appeared on the schedule of BAMcinema Fest I had never even heard of it. I should also say that my knowledge of Shirley Clarke and her films is entirely via text books and film reference guides. Both of those facts may seem heretical to some, but to me its revealing since I went into the film a completely open book.

Seeing JASON & SHIRLEY essentially cold  was a mixed affair. While sections of the film are quite raw, Jason and Shirley's boyfriend trading barbs, or any of the the sections that I would think stick close to what happened or is in the inspirational documentary, are quite thrilling, there are other sections, moments where the film seems to flounder. The opening sequences play like weak inde drama.  I am not a fan of the film's drifting off into fantasy. Nor am I a fan of the recreations of Jason's stories that flash past us. The film feels like it's struggling very hard to be about something and instead of just letting the situation unravel naturally. The film's drive to make the film stand out from PORTRAIT ends up distancing the audience.

I don't think the film is necessarily bad, I think that on some level the film is the sort of thing that is only really going to play well for the audience who knows the original film and who are on it's wavelength. I doubt very highly that this is going to play well outside of a very specialized audience- which I think explains why the film is beginning it's regular theatrical life at New York's Museum of Modern Art where it is more likely to find it's audience.

Recommended for fans of PORTRAIT OF JASON or the truly adventurous. All others are suggested to skip this one.

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