Artists Space

Critical Americana

September 8, 2018, 9:15pm

This screening takes place at Metrograph and is part of the Jack Smith Film Retrospective program series.

The profile of a person with orange hair wearing heavy makeup.
Jack Smith, still from Song for Rent, 1969. 16mm, (sound, color), 8 minutes. [The profile of a person with orange hair wearing heavy makeup.]


No President, 1967-70, 16mm, (sound, black and white), 45 minutes

I Was a Male Yvonne De Carlo, 1960s-70s, 16mm, (sound, black and white), 30 minutes

Song for Rent, 1969, 16mm, (sound, color), 8 minutes

Jungle Island (aka Reefers of Technicolor Island), 1967, 16mm, (sound, color), 15 minutes

Total running time: 98 minutes

In this four-part screening, Jack Smith fashions himself and his actors as politicians, celebrities and drag queens. In response to the 1968 presidential campaign, Smith’s No President, originally titled The Kidnapping of Wendell Wilkie by the Love Bandit, juxtaposes black and white found footage from Willkie’s 1940 presidential campaign with Smith’s costumed and masked creatures. I Was A Male Yvonne De Carlo opens with a sound bite from Smith’s film No President juxtaposed with footage of steam escaping New York City manholes. The scene abruptly shifts to the inside of Smith’s detritus-filled loft, where Warhol Superstar Ondine snaps glamour shots of a visibly bored Smith and an attendant nurse whips a crowd of zealous fans. Playing the role of Yvonne De Carlo, Hollywood starlet and Maria Montez’s successor (and in Smith’s words, “a walking career”) Smith embodies a corrupted celebrity, preying on his devoted followers. In Song for Rent, Smith stars as the drunk and delirious matron Rose Courtyard (inspired by Rose Kennedy), who sits in a room filled with trash and decaying corpses while Kate Smith’s “God Bless America” plays in the background. Meanwhile Jungle Island (aka Reefers of Technicolor Island) captures Mario Montez in a psychedelic, pot-filled, tropical fantasy-land. Cloaked in glamour and excess, these films depict the sinister side of a distinctly American obsession with fame, wealth, and beauty in a detritus-ridden capitalist world.

Thank you: Anthology Film Archives, Isaac Alpert, Barbara Gladstone, Claire Henry, J. Hoberman, Ed Leffingwell, Jerry Tartaglia.

Organized by Kathrin Bentele, Stella Cilman, Jay Sanders, and Jamie Stevens.

Presented in collaboration with Metrograph.