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Jason and Shirley

Directed by Stephen Winter
United States, 2015
Biography, Comedy, Drama


Imagines an alternate history to legendary avant-garde filmmaker Shirley Clarke’s Portrait of Jason, tracing the dizzying power struggle between the director and her subject. Screening with Michael Almereyda’s short film Mondo Cane.

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Jason and Shirley Directed by Stephen Winter
The supposed ace up Jason and Shirley’s sleeve is its investigation into Portrait’s unspoken gender and ethnic tensions: Holliday was a gay black man and Clarke a white Jewish woman. But all Winter and company can muster is expository dialogue that points out these facts alongside a few Jewish jokes. There’s a great story to be told about the making of Portrait of Jason, but Jason and Shirley isn’t it.
October 21, 2015
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It takes a disturbing, ambiguous film and reduces it to the comforting expository contours of a biopic… Flashbacks and fantasy sequences undercut the claustrophobic atmosphere. What’s left is amateurish play acting — pointless for anyone who hasn’t seen “Portrait of Jason” and redundant for those who have.
October 19, 2015
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Winter doesn’t display the confidence that the real Clarke did when she kept her camera solely on Holliday. Alternatively, the director stages a variety of limp, confessional fantasy sequences—call them Fosse-lite—in which Holliday frolics with a white woman he worked for as well as a white boy who might’ve broken his heart. It’s all so impossibly banal and garish, so insultingly broad and meaningless. Jason and Shirley doesn’t earn the gall it evinces by pissing on a masterpiece.
October 18, 2015
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