Thursday, August 28, 2008

Jack Smith and the Destruction of Atlantis DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Bio-Pic Revisiting Cinematic Career of Unrecognized Genius Released on DVD

Jack Smith (1932-1989) was an uncompromisingly experimental innovator in the field of cinema whose name might not be known to the general public despite the fact that he has been credited as an influence by such fellow avant garde filmmakers as Federico Fellini, Jean-Luc Godard, Jim Jarmusch, Andy Warhol and John Waters. This unrecognized genius is finally receiving a measure of respect, even if belatedly, with the release of this uncritical bio-pic which mixes snippets of his flicks in with the reflections of colleagues, actors and friends who were fond of him and his work.

We learn that Smith was born in Columbus, Ohio where he passed a decidedly unhappy childhood, perhaps due to his being gay in the breadbasket of America. As a young adult, he made his way to New York City’s Greenwich Village where he embarked on a career in the fields of photography, performance art and film.

There, the irreverent iconoclast made daring movies deemed pornographic in their day, such as Flaming Creatures which was banned in 22 states. Watching some of his censured scenes now, it is apparent that times have certainly changed. Yes there’s plenty of male and female nudity, especially homoerotica featuring flamboyant drag queens, but nothing hardcore that would warrant the implementation of drastic legal sanctions.

In fact, the most alarming aspect of the production might not be any of the images, but the intermittent voiceover of Jack Smith himself. In a rambling rasp, he can be heard railing against the mercenary nature of capitalism and bitterly raising a litany of other complaints about the state of American society.

Alternately bizarre and inspired, but an appropriate tribute to a visionary impossible to pigeonhole.

Excellent (4 stars)


Running time: 95 minutes

Studio: Arts Alliance America

DVD Extras: Nine interviews and two featurettes.

To see a trailer for Jack Smith and the Destruction of Atlantis, visit:

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