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Directed by Shirley Clarke
USA 1967

My name is Jason Holliday... The star of Shirley Clarke's unforgettable Portrait of Jason is black, gay, hilarious, heartbreaking and on screen for every one of the film's 107 minutes. The evening of December 3, 1966, director Shirley Clarke and crew filmed Jason for twelve straight hours as he told stories about his life, loves and work. At a time when it was illegal to be gay in the US, Jason spun extraordinary tales about his a career as a nightclub entertainer; his confrontations with his father; growing up in Trenton; and the many forms of hustling that comprised the basis of his existence. Jason may be the most self-revealing Scheherazade in the history of documentary films. Or is he? How much of what Jason says is true and how much is a fabulous performance? Even Clarke s filmmaking prevaricates Portrait of Jason was designed and painstakingly put together to look rough and entirely unedited. While all her films explored that porous border between cinema vérité and fiction Portrait of Jason, with its many ambiguities and contradictions, may well be Clarke's masterpiece. Milestone searched for three years to find the original elements for this definitive restoration of a landmark film. Provocative, groundbreaking and truly gripping, Portrait of Jason was one of the first LGBT films to be taken seriously by the general audiences and remains one of the most remarkable films in the history of American independent filmmaking.

***

We are talking grassroots cinema here folks - Shirley Clarke's expose on a black male prostitute named Jason Holliday is the essence of the, then budding, cinema verite movement. Jason is both obtusely frank and casually open using part of the 1 1/2 hour as a confessional that lends itself to the viewer as a powerful voyeuristic fear that opens the door, perhaps further than we were intended to peer inside. Somewhere in the middle Jason performs “The Music That Makes Me Dance” (from Funny Girl) for us - it is uncannily profound and expressionistic. I might say the whole viewing alone might be worth that number. This film is as pure a cinema as many may wish to venture. When the party gets a little dull, pull this baby out and slowly rivet the room's attention. 

Gary W. Tooze

Theatrical Release: October 2nd, 1967 - NY, NY

 

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Comparison:

Second Run DVD - Region 0 - PAL vs. Milestone Films - Region FREE - Blu-ray

 

1) Second Run - Region 0 - PAL - LEFT

2) Milestone - Region FREE - Blu-ray - RIGHT

 

Box Covers

Distribution Second Run DVD - Region 0 - PAL Milestone
Region FREE -
Blu-ray
Runtime 1:38:18 (4% PAL Speedup) 1:47:41.705
Video 1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.51 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s
1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray
Disc Size: 45,515,890,698 bytes
Feature: 29,814,632,448 bytes
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video
Total Video Bitrate: 32.75 Mbps

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

Bitrate: Blu-ray

Audio English (Dolby Digital 1.0)  LPCM Audio English 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit
Subtitles None English (SDH), None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Second Run DVD

Aspect Ratio:
Original aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• Introduction by Wendy Clarke
• Introduction to 'Love Tapes' by Wendy Clarke
• 'Love Taps' (24:41)

• 12-page liner notes booklet with essays and photos

DVD Release Date: October 3rd, 2005

Transparent Keep Case
Chapters: 12

Release Information:
Studio: Milestone

 

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray
Disc Size: 45,515,890,698 bytes
Feature: 29,814,632,448 bytes
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video
Total Video Bitrate: 32.75 Mbps

 

Edition Details:
The Lost Confrontation. 6:02)
Where's Shirley? (25:31)
Jason in Color! (2:12)
Portrait of Jason trailer (1:30)
Jason: Before and After (1:14)
Butterfly (1967, 3:51)
Shirley Clarke in Underground New York (1967, 9:52)
Jason Unleashed (Audio outtakes. 34:34)
Pacifica Radio Interview with Shirley Clarke (1967, 52:45)
The Jason Holiday comedy album (1967, 49:13 audio. Courtesy of Regina Longo)

Blu-ray Release Date:
November 11th, 201
4
Standard Blu-ray Case

Chapters 14

 

 

 

Comments:

NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

ADDITION: Milestone Blu-ray - October 14': The new restoration and 1080P transfer take huge strides beyond the way out-of-print 2005 Second Run DVD. Frankly, it is exactly what this masterpiece needed. Ingmar Bergman called it “the most extraordinary film I’ve seen in my life.” It only seems appropriate to have it in the best resolution for home theatre presentation and restored to its best quality. As an extra on the Blu-ray is a comparison between the Museum of Modern Art restoration and Milestone's 2K raw scan done at Modern Videofilm from the WCFTR 16mm Fine Grain. There are a few speckles and light scratches remaining. You can see the disparity between the SD and HD in the below matched screen captures. "With the financial support of hundreds of Kickstarter backers, Milestone worked with the Academy Film Archive and Modern Videofilm to create sparkling new 35mm prints" (of which this transfer is derived.)

NOTE: The Milestone version is 4-5 minutes longer than Second Run's DVD and Mystic Fire's VHS. The weird history of the film on video is that you always video master the visual first and so the engineers mastered only the visual film. Both versions cut out some of the "black leader scenes" especially at the beginning of two of the reels.

Audio is lossless via a linear PCM track. It improves upon the DVD but the quality is still more a function of the production limitations. It does sound clearer with more of the vérité atmosphere remaining. Milestone have, thankfully, added optional English subtitles.

There are a lot of supplements including some color footage of Jason Holiday in front of Max's Kansas City in NY cirac 1971 (photographed by Anton Perich) - alot with Shirley Clarke discussing the film, a trailer - almost 1.5 hours of audio outtakes (both 'Jason Unleashed' and a Pacifica Radio Interview with Shirley Clarke). I was appreciative of Butterfly (1967) - created by Shirley Clarke and Wendy Clarke for a screening at the New York University LOEB Student centre as part of an Anti-War program of short films. It was only screened that one time. Wonderful to have all this extra material to view.

This package has so much to offer - although, obviously, not everyone's cup-of-tea. I am thrilled to see it looking so good and to have it be a part of my library. Quite a time for another generation of audiences to meet and be fascinated by Jason Holliday. Absolutely recommended!

***

ON THE DVD: Wow, you gotta hand it to Second Run DVD - how in the world did they dig up this little marvella? Not knowing what to expect I felt like I was kicked in the stomach by a horse. Second Run should additionally be complimented as this must purely be a labor of love - I can't see anyone retiring on the strength of these DVD sales. After further research I truly hope Second Run can come up with more Shirley Clarke stuff.

Frankly the image looks awful, but I suspect THIS is exactly how it does look from the best possible print (I'm still more impressed that it actually exists rather than how it look). My only real complaint is that removable subtitles would have been nice as the audio is similarly as weak as the image, but again I'm sure it would not be cost-effective. I am thrilled to have this in my collection. Second Run just keeps pumping out these rare and previously unseen delights.

Gary W. Tooze

 





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Distribution Second Run DVD - Region 0 - PAL Milestone
Region FREE -
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Gary Tooze

Thank You!