Portrait of Jason (1967)


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Portrait of Jason is a disturbing but fascinating 90-minute exercise in the Avant Garde (earlier prints ran 105 minutes). Experimental filmmaker Shirley Clarke, produced, edited, directed and provided voiceover for this landmark film. Essentially, the picture consists of an interview with "Jason," a young black homosexual and male prostitute. Despite her kaleidoscope style, Clarke takes great pains not to editorialize: Jason is Jason, like it or not. While mainstream critics expressed nausea and disgust over Portrait of Jason, Swedish director Ingmar Bergman declared it to be "the most fascinating film I've ever seen." ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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Critic Reviews for Portrait of Jason

All Critics (22) | Top Critics (8)

Like any star turn, Holliday's performance rings utterly true. It's that indefinable but unmistakable reality-beyond-reality called art.

Sep 11, 2013 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

This is a film way ahead of its time.

Aug 15, 2013 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

Serves as a sideways time capsule, creating a blurry snapshot of an Afro-camp subculture during the era of Christopher Street bar raids and burn-baby-burn rioting.

Apr 16, 2013 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
Time Out
Top Critic

A masterwork of grand-scale intimacy ...

Apr 15, 2013 | Full Review…

[Portrait of Jason] says more about race, class, and sexuality than just about any movie before or since.

Mar 27, 2012 | Full Review…

Portrait of Jason is a curious and fascinating example of cinema verité, all the ramifications of which cannot be immediately known.

Mar 27, 2012 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Portrait of Jason

Every interview is a performance. And you are very unlikely to see one as entertaining as the one in the case of Jason Holliday(ne Aron Payne), hustler and house boy extraordinaire, who is attempting to put his vast experiences together into a nightclub act, thus enlivening that particular American trait for reinvention. At the same time, the only name dropping he does concerns Miles Davis which considering what has been written by and about Davis, it is not out of the realm of possibility that he did know a few hustlers in his time. And even though Jason also covers some very serious material like his abusive father, he remains garrulous throughout, occasionally taking puffs on a joint. Even when the video fails at one point, the filmmakers do their best to keep the audio going, in order to record as much of Jason's story as they can.(The boom mike also puts in an appearance.) Otherwise, scenes are marked by the imaqe fading in and out. That pattern continues until almost the end when the filmmakers begin to call out Jason about some of his stories.

Walter M.
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

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