Close Up

6 - 27 July 2010: American Portraits


From gay hustler Jason Holliday to jazz legend Chet Baker, this series compiles four unique films portraying the lives of eccentrics, artists, bank robbers, musicians, transvestites, whether unknowns or icons of American culture.

Portrait of Jason
Shirley Clarke
1967 | 99 min | B/W | Digital

Portrait of Jason is the raw record of a confessional conversation with gay African-American hustler Jason Holliday about his life and times. A disturbing and fascinating document, it unflinchingly observes Holliday conversing, performing, confessing, dissolving. Shirley Clarke was a key figure in the American avant-garde and has been an influence on filmmakers and video artists over the last 40 years. Portrait of Jason is a counter-culture classic and a landmark in American independent cinema.

Stranded in Canton
William J. Eggleston
1974 | 76 min | B/W | Digital

"Shot in 1974 with a Sony Porta-Pak, the crazily careering Stranded in Canton documents a cast of hard-drinking Southerners with the intimacy, ease and instability of a seasoned participant. Whiffs of Southern Gothic are not new to Mr Eggleston's work, but here they rise to the surface-fierce, tragic and proud." – New York Times

Grey Gardens
Albert & David Maysles
1976 | 94 min | Colour | Digital

High-society dropouts, Big and Little Edie Beale, were the reclusive cousins of Jackie Kennedy Onassis. The Maysles's documentary captures the mother and daughter at home amid the crazy decay and disorder of their ramshackle East Hampton mansion. This impossibly intimate portrait of the unexpected established Little Eddie as fashion icon and philosopher queen.

Let's Get Lost
Bruce Weber
1988 | 120 min | B/W | Digital

Let's Get Lost is Bruce Weber's stunning documentary about the late jazz great, Chet Baker. Weber and crew filmed Baker on the road from West to East Coast USA to Continental Europe, during the last year of the musician's life. Amid candid interviews with Baker, fellow musicians, friends, battling ex-wives and children, Weber cuts in footage of Baker's last recording sessions, excerpts from movies starring the handsome young Chet and rare archive performance footage.