The city’s longest-running organization dedicated to weekly screenings of experimental film, documentaries, animation and video art.

February 9: Shirley Clarke’s Portrait of Jason


Saturday February 9, 2008, 7:30 pm

At the Silent Movie Theatre
611 N. Fairfax Ave. just south of Melrose
Park across the street at Fairfax High School

Los Angeles Filmforum and CineFamily present
Portrait of Jason by Shirley Clarke
As part of CineFamily’s series The Black Impostor


This month, we present five fascinating character studies which illuminate an unusual and rarely seen figure in American cinema — that of the Black Impostor.  Whether a hustler, a con man, an amnesiac or a woman who chooses to pass for white, the subjects of these films are people who, through chance, will, or sheer force of personality, find a leg up over the walls of white privilege. They are charismatic, charming and demonstrate exceptional social intelligence, but must also compromise some piece of their identity in their shape-shifting quest for fulfillment in a racist society. These are thrilling performances which offer a window into the performative nature of racial identity. The Black Impostor is a subversion of that tired Hollywood cliché—the “Magical Negro,” (a black character with no life or dreams of his own, but with the mystical power to sacrifice himself for the good of the white protagonists).  There’s no such “black magic” in these films, because if race is a social construction or a mass hallucination, then the Black Impostor is an illusionist who manipulates perceptions in pursuit of his own American Dream.

Portrait of Jason (1967, 35mm, 105 min)
A whimsical missive from a weathered soul, Portrait is simply that: a continuous unfolding monologue from dapper, effete ‘60s hustler Jason Holiday (real name: Aaron Payne,) who, with a kind face and supple voice, regales us with the compelling saga of his broken life, from houseboy to heretic, from militant youth to sassy gigolo. Whereas Warhol would’ve been content framing the more exploitative elements of Jason’s tales in urban decay and poncy despair, here director Shirley Clarke has the good sense to sit him down in a sparse apartment and give this self-described “stone whore” the greatest backdrop possible: his own fevered imagination.  Rarely does his narrative veer into dryness: Jason first draws us in with his radiant smile, then later ratchets the intensity as he consumes enough booze to kill a small horse.  A landmark in both queer and confessional cinema.

This week Filmforum inaugurates its new venue partnership with CineFamily at the Silent Movie Theatre.  CineFamily has revitalized the Silent Movie Theatre with wide-ranging,  and smart programming.  From a continued interest in silent movies to experimental films, cult works to bizarre pop hits, foreign and domestic, CineFamily displays the cinephilic sensibility that we are delighted to share. 

The Cinefamily is an organization of movie lovers devoted to finding and presenting interesting and unusual programs of exceptional, distinctive, weird and wonderful films. The Cinefamily’s goal is to foster a spirit of community and a sense of discovery, while reinvigorating the movie-going experience. Like campfires, sporting events and church services, we believe that movies work best as social experiences. They are more meaningful, funnier and scarier when shared with others. Our home is the Silent Movie Theatre, one of Hollywood’s most beloved and beautiful cultural landmarks. There, The Cinefamily will provide a destination spot for Los Angelenos and others to rediscover the pleasures of cinema.

Built in 1942 by John and Dorothy Hampton, The Silent Movie Theatre ran for decades as the only fully functioning silent movie theatre in the country. It has been fully restored to its original, vintage 1940s art deco design, along with a brand new screen and sound system, to help a new generation enjoy the pleasures of cinema in a beautiful theatre.