“It only hurts when you think of it. And if you’re real, you’ll think of it a long, long time.”
Filmmaker Shirley Clarke interviews a self-described gay black “hustler” (Jason Holliday) who tells countless entertaining tales of his life as a sexually voracious “houseboy” and aspiring cabaret singer.
Shirley Clarke’s cult classic — filmed in her Hotel Chelsea apartment over the course of 12 hours — remains a uniquely structured, unexpectedly haunting entry in her oeuvre as an independent female documentarian. Without explanation or captions, the film plunges into Clarke’s talk with Jason, beginning with how he transformed from “Aaron Payne” to “Jason Holliday” with the help of a budding international spiritual organization which promotes the changing of one’s name to something more “authentic”. (As a bit of trivia, my parents joined this group at around the same time and also changed their birth names.) The film quickly moves on, however, to even more fascinating fare, as Jason, continuously drinking, begins sharing seemingly endless tales of his life as a hustler — or wait, as a houseboy? A companion? What exactly DID Jason do to earn money, and how often did this overlap with his own entertainment? Well, it turns out he did just about anything, and (supposedly) never felt bad about it:
“They think you’re just a dumb, stupid little colored boy and you’re trying to get a few dollars, and they’re gonna use you as a joke. And it gets to be a joke sometime as to who’s using who.”
The stories he has to tell are simply hilarious — at least until the hours wear on and his revelations become increasingly fraught with vulnerability (especially as Clarke’s cameraman, Carl Lee, eggs him on). You’re sure to be engaged — if not haunted, disturbed, and/or entertained — by this most unusual docu-interview.
Note: A docudrama re-imagining what might have taken place during the marathon shooting of this film has just been released; click here to read more.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- A surprisingly engrossing “one man show”, covering both light-hearted and much more serious topics
Yes, as a unique historical document by an unusual director. Listed as a film with Historical significance and a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book.