Portrait of Jason

  • Shirley Clarke
  • United States
  • 1967
  • 105 min
  • The Female Gaze
Portrait of Jason is a two-hour monologue of Jason Holliday, a forty-year-old gay black man. Talking about his life, he constantly hesitates between self-pity and an unlimited optimism. He talks about his employers, lovers, parents and friends, and about his ambition to be a star. He is a cabaret artist known for his impersonation of Mae West. Shirley Clarke, who gave up her dancing career to become a filmmaker in 1953, shot Portrait of Jason on a single night on the roof of the famous Chelsea Hotel in New York. We can hear her voice in the background, soft and indistinct, giving directions to the cameraman and sound man and asking Jason questions. The film is focused on this single man: the camera records every expression, movement and reaction of what seems to be a direct confrontation between the director and her subject. Despite his boldness, Jason ends up a broken man at the end of the film, after all the layers have been peeled off. Portrait of Jason is a splendid example of documentary filming and psychology. Jason's unusual stories are full of self-mockery, and the irony he gives to them with a mere facial expression are an invitation to the audience to reconsider their own views on society once more.


  • 105 min
  • black and white
  • DCP
  • Spoken languages: English
Shirley Clarke
Shirley Clarke
Jery Sapanen
Shirley Clarke
Francis Daniel

IDFA history

The Female Gaze

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