7.2/10
558
5 user 37 critic

Portrait of Jason (1967)

The highlights of a 12-hour interview with Aaron Payne, alias Jason Holliday, a former houseboy, would-be cabaret performer, and self-proclaimed hustler who, while drinking and smoking ... See full summary »

Director:

Watch Now

From $3.99 (SD) on Amazon Video

1 win. See more awards »
Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

A director tries to film a group of junkies in Leach's room while they are waiting for Cowboy to bring their heroin connection.

Director: Shirley Clarke
Stars: Warren Finnerty, Garry Goodrow, Jerome Raphael
Documentary | Music
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

Ornette: Made In America captures Ornette's evolution over three decades. Returning home to Fort Worth, Texas in 1983 as a famed performer and composer, documentary footage, dramatic scenes... See full summary »

Director: Shirley Clarke
Stars: Ornette Coleman, John Giordano, Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra
The Fox (1967)
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  

Based on D.H. Lawrence's novella about two young women - sickly, chattering Jill Banford and quiet, strong Ellen March - who are trying, hopelessly, to run a chicken farm in Canada. A ... See full summary »

Director: Mark Rydell
Stars: Keir Dullea, Sandy Dennis, Anne Heywood
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.3/10 X  

A young, handsome man works on the yacht of a Parisian tycoon who happens to be away at the moment. Two nautical layabouts convince the man to take them out looking for the sunken treasure.

Director: Byron Haskin
Stars: Joanne Dru, Mark Stevens, Robert Strauss
Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

Filmmaker Shirley Clarke ("The Connection") directs this powerful, stark semi-documentary look at the horrors of Harlem ghetto slum life filled with drugs, violence, human misery, and a ... See full summary »

Director: Shirley Clarke
Stars: Rony Clanton, Carl Lee, Yolanda Rodríguez
Betty (1992)
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

When Betty is caught en flagrante, her bourgeois in-laws and husband force a divorce settlement upon her and bar her from seeing her two daughters. She is rescued from an alcoholic stupor ... See full summary »

Director: Claude Chabrol
Stars: Marie Trintignant, Stéphane Audran, Jean-François Garreaud
Boy (1969)
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

A young boy reluctantly aids his swindling father in a threatening scam.

Director: Nagisa Ôshima
Stars: Fumio Watanabe, Akiko Koyama, Tetsuo Abe
Romance | Western
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  

After a bank robbery, runaway Scottish outlaw Arch Deans and his young half breed Kiowa partner Billy Two Hats develop a father-son relationship but Sheriff Henry Gifford is determined to capture or kill them.

Director: Ted Kotcheff
Stars: Gregory Peck, Desi Arnaz Jr., Jack Warden
The Exiles (1961)
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

Native Americans in Los Angeles. For 12 hours one Friday night, from late afternoon until dawn, we follow a handful of urban Indians. Yvonne is pregnant, commenting on her life and dreams ... See full summary »

Director: Kent Mackenzie
Stars: Yvonne Williams, Homer Nish, Tom Reynolds
Best Boy (1979)
Documentary | Biography
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  

In this documentary, the director follows the day-to-day activities of his retarded, middle-aged cousin Philly, over a three-year period.

Director: Ira Wohl
Stars: Ira Wohl, Philip Wohl, Zero Mostel
Girlfriends (1978)
Comedy | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

A photographer and her girlfriend are roommates. She is stuck with small-change shooting jobs and dreams of success. When her roommate decides to get married and leave, she feels hurt and has to learn how to deal with living alone.

Director: Claudia Weill
Stars: Melanie Mayron, Eli Wallach, Adam Cohen
Comedy | Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

Jim Wormold, who is a vacuum cleaner salesman, participates as an agent in the British Secret Service. But he soon realizes that his plans by lying are going to get him into trouble.

Director: Carol Reed
Stars: Alec Guinness, Maureen O'Hara, Burl Ives
Edit

Cast

Cast overview:
...
Himself
...
Interviewer (voice)
Carl Lee ...
Interviewer (voice)
Edit

Storyline

The highlights of a 12-hour interview with Aaron Payne, alias Jason Holliday, a former houseboy, would-be cabaret performer, and self-proclaimed hustler who, while drinking and smoking cigarettes and pot, giggles his way through stories and observations of what it was (and is) like to be black and gay in 1960s America. Written by <havan_ironoak@bigfoot.com> and <elfdorado@sbcglobal.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Edit

Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

29 September 1967 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Portret Jasona  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

See  »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

This film was previously thought to have been lost, until a 16 mm print of the film was discovered at the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research in 2013 and has since been restored by the Academy Film Archive, Milestone Films and Modern Videofilm. See more »

Connections

Featured in What Is Cinema? (2013) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

 
Unforgettable more than enjoyable
30 June 2008 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Shirley Clarke admitted she made films for people who already understood her wavelength. While that cannot be used as an excuse, it does make Portrait of Jason a challenge. Will you dismiss it as the nauseous ramblings of an ageing black homosexual prostitute? Or might you even pronounce it, as revered Swedish director Ingmar Bergman did, "The most fascinating film I've ever seen"? There are films that you enjoy. And films that stick with you. Ones that make an impression even if it wasn't a pleasant one. This is maybe one of those. Jason, talking of his own life, couldn't have put it better. "It only hurts when you think of it. And if you're real you'll think of it a long, long time." The moral tightrope the filmmakers tread - pushing a man to the brink of despair - is mesmerising. The techniques, which also question the nature of documentary itself, leave many questions unanswered.

There is affectionate voyeurism that we have all maybe engaged in. When friends get drunk or do silly things. There's a saying, "God remembers us by our mistakes, not our perfections." But what of more uncomfortable revelations? Made unwillingly or willingly? Does the sanctimonious label of 'truth-telling' justify hurt? Does complicity? Today we are bombarded with Jerry Springer style TV 'confessions'. We are inured to 'reality shows'. In the late 60s, documentary film-making was enjoying new found freedoms in showing 'truth'. Portrait of Jason has rightly been described as a journey into a man's soul. But it mirrors the transformation of voyeurship with the advent of the video. "The very thing that was trying to be hidden is now the thing that is trying to be exposed," Clarke explained. Where the audience was the watcher, the filmmaker is now the watcher. In Portrait of Jason, putting something on film changes the dynamic intensity – what was boring in real life becomes fascinating once it is filmed and edited.

The film-making process of Portrait of Jason deliberately interacts with the subject. Not to manipulate truth, but to elicit a deeper truth. It has been called 'self-reflexive documentary.' The eponymous Jason introduces himself at length, but later contradicts himself, admitting his real name is Aaron Payne. The process has become part of the subject matter. What can be believed? Portrait of Jason is Warholian in its simplicity. A middle-aged black man talks on camera for an hour and three-quarters. But the bite is that although willing, he is obviously not only under the influence of drink and drugs: he is tired and repeatedly gets up to go home. That it has been edited down from twelve hours of footage is testimony to the reality of the camera's lengthy cross-examination.

Jason Holliday is a remarkable individual. And also a nobody. For him, this film is an opportunity to be immortalised. "It is a nice feeling," he explains. Something he will always have and treasure.

At the beginning, Jason revels in self-caricature. The fact that he is a drug-user and a prostitute. "I'm a stoned whore!" he boasts with camp exuberance. We learn he grew up with an overbearing father – which he describes with the wit of a stand-up comedian. He makes amusing stories out of his road to homosexuality. He always wanted to be a stage performer and delights in showing us his material, donning a hat to do an impression of Mae West.

But the 'evening' wears on. Jason's ability to project his misery as something we can laugh at wears thin. He is tired. But he still rises to the call for 'material'. This, together with the questioning, connects to his desperate side. He wants to show us he is proud of his life. We are drawn in but at the same time maybe not wanting to know. "How did you get the 75 cents for the bed?" When Jason breaks down and cries we know we have hit rock bottom. Documentary 'truth' by a process of wearing down. But is it fair to do this to any human being? I leave the auditorium with a bad taste in my mouth. But days later I realise the film has made a deeper impression on me than many I have seen. The insights into racism in the U.S. ("The great problem of our time," as Shirley Clarke called it) are humbling. Certain phrases stick in my mind. "Are you lonely?" they asked him. "I'm desperate," he replies, "but I'm cool!" And in spite of the hell he has been through he says he is, "Happy about the whole thing," when asked about the filming. It was maybe not the immortalisation he expected. But Jason Holliday will certainly never be forgotten. I start to think that Clarke did him a kindness. Then I read how, in a 1983 interview, she had admitted, "I started out that evening with hatred, and there was a part of me that was out to do him in, get back at him, kill him." Did my previous judgement hold true? Even if her motives were not as clean as I had given her credit for? It seems to me that Clarke maybe uses Holliday as a means to an end, even if that end is breaking new ground in film-making. Films such as Capturing the Friedmans, many years later, although made with the family's consent, would expose their subjects to a scrutiny that was not always favourable. Yet elements of the moral uneasiness of that much later documentary are apparent in Portrait of Jason. In Freidmans, we justify intrusion because of willingness and the possibility that serious harm has been committed. But Jason doesn't stand accused. Then again, it is one of the earliest films to look at a gay protagonist in an open and (arguably) sympathetic manner. It may be that the benefits outweigh any harm. He forever tells us, "I'll never tell." But evidently needs little encouragement to do so.


37 of 39 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for:
?