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The Notorious Jack Smith: Flaming Creatures and Selected Shorts


Images courtesy of Film-Makers' Cooperative
Images courtesy of Film-Makers' Cooperative
The Notorious Jack Smith: Flaming Creatures and Selected Shorts
Thu, June 7, 2012 7 PM
“The only true underground filmmaker.”—John Waters

Pioneering underground filmmaker and performance artist Jack Smith came into the world in Columbus in 1932, and we’re devoting three programs of Cinema 614 to his influential, and truly inimitable, work. This first program features his scandalous landmark film Flaming Creatures, as well as such rarely screened titles as I Was a Male Yvonne De Carlo and Hot Air Specialists. All films are being screened in new 16mm prints from the Film-Makers’ Cooperative in New York City. (app. 96 mins., 16 mm)


Scotch Tape (1959–62), 3 mins.
Scotch Tape, Smith’s first released film, was shot during downtime on the “set” (the rubble-strewn site of the future Lincoln Center on Manhattan’s upper west side) of another landmark experimental movie, Star Spangled to Death, an epic directed by Ken Jacobs. Smith seized the opportunity and used Jacobs’s own camera to film people dancing and cavorting in the ruins. The title comes from the piece of transparent tape that became wedged in the camera gate. Tony Conrad credits his work on the innovate soundtrack of Scotch Tape as an epiphany that inspired him to become a filmmaker himself. This and Flaming Creatures are Smith’s only completed films.

Flaming Creatures (1962–63), 43 mins.
Nothing short of notorious, Flaming Creatures marked a significant moment in the history of postwar American film and culture. The film was banned and seized, caused theaters to be shut down, and was the subject of an obscenity case that reached the US Supreme Court. And yet Flaming Creatures was, according to Smith, ultimately meant to be a comedy. On a rooftop above one of New York’s oldest extant (now demolished) movie houses, characters disrupt gender and sexual “norms” as they act out carnal fantasies on a set resembling an Arabian harem. Excerpts from Josef von Sternberg’s The Devil Is a Woman contribute to Tony Conrad’s assembled soundtrack as Smith’s creatures dance and chase one another about the bacchanal. (description courtesy Harvard Film Archive)

Yellow Sequence (1963–65), 15 mins.
A gold-toned coda to Smith's epic Normal Love project, Yellow Sequence features many of the same cast members (including Tiny Tim). You can see Normal Love at the Wex on June 12.

I Was a Male Yvonne De Carlo (1967–70s), 28 mins.
This is one of Smith’s many films and slide shows that feature him as a mock celebrity. Here he is inundated with demanding fans (including Warhol superstar Ondine).

Hot Air Specialists (1980s), 7 mins.
Shot in one of Smith’s East Village apartments, Hot Air Specialists sees Smith, in drag, bring home a trick with propulsive results.
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