Jack Smith & the Destruction Of Atlantis
Photos and Video
Underground filmmaker, photographer, actor, performance artist, Lower East Side fixture, homosexual, and anticapitalist Jack Smith was a central figure of New York underground culture from the 1960's until his death in 1989. In Jack Smith and the Destruction of Atlantis, filmmaker and former music video director Mary Jordan creates a mesmerizing portrait of this avant-garde pioneer. Replete with an assemblage of photographs, film clips, and audio recordings of Smith's own voice, this signature work resurrects the seminal importance of Smith to the entire development of the 1960's New York underground scene. Jordan's film details the story behind the Supreme Court case over the banning of Smith's 1963 underground classic Flaming Creatures. She also illuminates Smith as a precursor to Andy Warhol in the production and promotion of art and delves into Smith's conflicted relationship with underground cinema champion Jonas Mekas over the promotion of Flaming Creatures. After the distribution of the film, Smith never "completed" another film. Instead he rearranged footage during screenings, thereby retaining control over his own art. Through interviews with Smith's sister, his formative years are revealed, including his lifelong fascination with Hollywood B-movie star Maria Montez (after whom Smith modeled the drag persona Mario Montez, which is featured in his films). This poignant documentary underscores the heroic nature of Smith's lifestyle and art during a time of political and social repression-a time not dissimilar from today.
Director's Statement Collapse
Jack Smith represents the beautified and the abandoned; whether transforming his creatures to realize their superstar status, or simply collecting and arranging garbage from the street. This element of Jack's work has influenced many of today's towers in contemporary art. Equally if not more liberating were the gender-bending theatrical tableaux he represented in his films and photographs. He blurred the lines between man and woman, beautiful and ugly, gay and straight. He created pansexual utopias that were scandalous for his time. He was openly flamboyant and out during those oppressive times. Flaming Creatures' first screening was seven years before the infamous Stonewall riots in New York City, and the film opened doors for expression for years to come. These two threads throughout Jack Smith's life and work are primarily what inspired me, as well as his vocal stances on art, politics, capitalism, and poverty. Smith's messages are incredibly relevant today-important for any of us who care to see our world turn a different direction. His purity and dedication to his ideals should inspire us all. I am grateful for the opportunity to help unearth this precious gem, and to begin counting Smith's many reverberations.
Film Information Collapse
[JACKS] | 2006 | 96 | Documentary Feature
Foreign Title: (Jack Smith & the Destruction Of Atlantis)
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About the Director(s)Collapse
Mary Jordan began working in production at the age of 16. By age 20 she was producing for some of Canada's top directors, including Steve Chase and Marco Brambilla. She formed and later sold the Australian production company Indigo Blue. She also discovered and represented burgeoning talents such as Andrew Lancaster and Mark Hartley. Jordan's previous documentary projects have centered on human rights, and include Thamanya-Burma, Can It!, and Quiet Powers and Female Circumcision in Africa. Some of her projects have been acquired by BBC Television and SBS.