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Jack Smith And The Destruction Of Atlantis - A Portrait Of An Artist Warhol Described As “The Only Person I Would Ever Copy”

Mary Jordan spent five years lovingly piecing together her first feature-length film Jack Smith and The Destruction of Atlantis, but would Jack have thanked her for it? When you hear John Waters say in the film, “Well, Jack did bite every hand that tried to feed him,” you have to conclude maybe not. “Yeah, he did bite a lot of hands,” laughs Jordan, “but it was his commitment to what he believed in that has made him an almost mythological figure, or an unfathomable one, depending on who you ask.” The film, assembled from footage and stills woven through with new interviews and an intricate soundtrack, is layered with ghostly voiceovers from old recordings of Jack. “If the footage was hard to track down, some of the people in the film were even harder to trace. It took us three years to locate Mario Montez,” says Jordan. (Montez – aka Rene Rivera – was Smith’s invention, modelled on 40s screen goddess Maria Montez, and one of the first “superstars” to make the jump to Warhol’s factory.) “It was amazing to have access to Jack’s record collection at Jonas Mekas’s Anthology Films, and Jack’s old friends came up

with some wonderful material,” explains Jordan. If Smith’s experimental use of colour photography had a filmic quality, his films are composed more like paintings. Making and living on practically nothing – film stock was either donated or found, costumes rescued from other people’s rubbish – he had a knack for getting most of his players to work for nothing. Smith left an indelible mark on many artists and filmmakers including Waters, Fellini and Warhol. “Jack’s commitment to his ideals shows in his work, he pushed boundaries and presented sexuality as something fluid, as a continuum,” explains Jordan. Mekas described Smith’s notorious film Flaming Creatures on its release as, “So beautiful, I feel ashamed to sit through the current Hollywood and European movies.” But the film was deemed obscene and banned. Riots ensued in universities and theatres were raided, and Smith withdrew from the commercial art scene. He didn’t complete another film, he was from then on interested only in live performance. “Why would I make another film that the people of my city can’t see?” Text Lotte Ould

86 AnOtherMan Film

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