7 user 18 critic

Jack Smith and the Destruction of Atlantis (2006)

Not Rated | | Documentary | 26 April 2006 (USA)
A mesmerizing collage of images and audio from the life and work of Jack Smith, the underground filmmaker, photographer, performance artist, and anti-capitalist, who worked in New York from... See full summary »


Mary Jordan


Mary Jordan
2 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »




Credited cast:
Jack Smith Jack Smith ... Himself (archive footage)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Nayland Blake Nayland Blake ... Himself
Ira Cohen Ira Cohen ... Himself
Tony Conrad Tony Conrad ... Composer
Richard Foreman Richard Foreman ... Himself
Ivan Galietti Ivan Galietti ... Himself
Helen Gee Helen Gee ... Limelight Gallery founder
Robert Heide Robert Heide ... Himself
Henry Hills Henry Hills ... Himself
Gary Indiana Gary Indiana ... Himself
Ken Jacobs Ken Jacobs ... Himself
Mike Kelley Mike Kelley ... Artist
George Kuchar ... Himself
Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt ... Himself
Sylvere Lotringer Sylvere Lotringer ... Himself


A mesmerizing collage of images and audio from the life and work of Jack Smith, the underground filmmaker, photographer, performance artist, and anti-capitalist, who worked in New York from the '60s until his death in 1989. Highlights include the story behind the Supreme Court case over the banning of his 1963 classic Flaming Creatures. Written by official film description

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

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Not Rated






Release Date:

26 April 2006 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Ο Τζακ Σμιθ και η καταστροφή της Ατλαντίδας See more »

Filming Locations:

New York City, New York, USA

Company Credits

Production Co:

Tongue Press See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Jack Smith: Doctor, doctor, tell me, please... Is my brain a germ or a disease?
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Features Normal Love (1963) See more »


Run Run Run
Written by Lou Reed
Performed by The Velvet Underground
Published by and courtesy of Spirit Music Group
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User Reviews

tale of a pale man
5 September 2007 | by MisterWhiplashSee all my reviews

Overall, Jack Smith reminds me of the Hunter S. Thompson line in Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas about his lawyer Dr. Gonzo: "One of God's prototypes. A high-powered mutant not even considered for mass production: too weird to live, and too rare to die." Smith, growing out of the rural dregs of Texas depression-era squalor, was fascinated and compelled by expression through impressions of the outcasts. A kind of half garbage-man and half pre-Andy Warhol absurdist, Smith first went through photography, where he made up photos as if in little cinematic vignettes through "found" art (the garbage) as well as "found" actors as it were. His amateur techniques and stringently independent tactics of rounding up people who were cast aside in lower east side Manhattan (one of which a transvestite, Mario Montez, named after one of Smith's idols Maria Montes), and in blending the fantastical with reality. Warhol ends up getting a chunk of the story in Destruction of Atlantis, and not without good reason; Warhol was once quoted as saying Smith was the only one he would copy from, and one sees a very strange push and pull short-lived collaboration between Warhol- whom Smith saw as the establishment already with the money he kept on receiving for his work- as the two minds were too much into their own styles to really meet at one point.

There is also what might be the most fascinating section of the film where the story of Flaming Creatures and Smith's rocky film-making not-quite career takes shape. "Creatures", from the clips presented, is a manically profound farce that is like getting the roughest 16mm glimpse at Smith's consciousness, as it is unkempt and unapologetically sexually ambiguous (to say it's outrageous and improvisational is putting it lightly), but it's alive and buzzing with a sense of humor and depraved poetry. It was as well, upon its original underground release, banned and labeled obscene by New York City, and banned in 22 states and four countries. This became something of a big lament for Smith that affected the rest of his life, more or less, in due to how the double-edged sword of film criticism worked him. Jonas Mekas, the first critic at the Village Voice, who championed the film across the country, getting himself arrested in the process, as well as to filmmakers like Fellini, is put in a sort of biased light by Mary Jordan. Mekas got most of the money from the screenings, with Smith getting next to nothing, and from there on in whenever Smith tried to make new films people would say "we just want Flaming Creatures." On the one hand it's a little un-fair to judge all film criticism the way we're meant to be shown here with the Mekas/Smith drama, but on the other hand without Mekas Smith would be even less known than he did with him.

But Smith was through and through a self-created visual anarchist, an originator of many of the avant-garde forms of film-making and art in the 1960s and beyond, and bizarre flaunter of what he "owned", which was only his self-creations (his dingy , uniquely movie-studio-fantasy designed apartment and incomplete films). And in this as her subject, Jordan makes a very convincing case for Smith as one of those truly sad but funny stories of an artist. As one sees through the interviews with friends, critics, admirers, actors, past possible lovers and closest confidants, as well as the phantasmagoria of bits and pieces of his work and audio clips, Smith made small waves when compared to the more noted experimental filmmakers of his time, but in such small circles the effect was extraordinary.

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