For a better experience on MUBI, update your browser.
370 Ratings

Portrait of Jason

Directed by Shirley Clarke
United States, 1967
Documentary, LGBTQ+


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.

Portrait of Jason Directed by Shirley Clarke
From today’s perspective, as the movie begins, Portrait of Jason seems less like a vacation from American reality than a rocket ship into the future of gay liberation. Dapper, blazered Jason Holliday—he’s on camera, drink(s) and cigarette(s) in hand, for the entire film—is unlike any gay man who had ever been seen in a movie before. He’s amusing, profane, explicit, and—most startlingly for the time—seemingly without shame, reservation, or embarrassment.
October 11, 2017
Read full article
The film’s simplicity is a deception. Although Clarke’s method may seem ‘artless’, David Bordwell notes the transitions only mimic casual shooting. The film appears to unfold chronologically, but the out-of-focus passages conceal edits and obscure the progress of the shoot.2 The missing time is left unaccounted for, and we will probably never know in what order the events unfolded.
March 17, 2017
Read full article
Through formal intervention, Clarke is never absent, though her voice is only seldom heard off screen. Before Holliday even introduces himself, Clarke is heard giving the command to roll film. As Holliday speaks, focus pulls, at first only slightly augmenting his face, but gradually a full rack focus renders him a complete blur, though he continues to speak.
November 11, 2014
Read full article

Related films