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Flaming Creatures

Jack Smith
USA 1963 / 43’

Appearing ex nihilo in early 1963 and banned in New York City a year later, Flaming Creatures proposed an entirely new form of cine-glamour-one that owed everything and nothing to Hollywood’s. This discontinuous, 43-minute succession of ‘exotic’ tableaux is a cross between Josef von Sternberg at his most studiedly artistic and a delirious home-movie of a transvestite bacchanal-except that ‘transvestite’ is not precisely the word for Smith’s gang of Arabian odalisques, Spanish dancers, blonde vampires, and sultry beatniks (half naked, some real women). At once primitive and sophisticated, hilarious and poignant, spontaneous and studied, frenzied and languid, crude and delicate, avant and nostalgic, gritty and fanciful, fresh and faded, innocent and jaded, high and low, raw and cooked, underground and camp, black and white and white-on-white, composed and decomposed, richly perverse and gloriously impoverished, Flaming Creatures was something new under the sun. Had Jack Smith produced nothing other than this amazing artefact, he would still rank among the great visionaries of American Film.

J. Hoberman / Live Film! Jack Smith!*

* Festival catalogue: Live Film! Jack Smith!, **Five** Flaming Days in a Rented World!, Berlin, 28th October – 1st November 2009. Festival organised by Arsenal – Institut für Film und Videokunst und am HAU/Hebbel am Ufer


awards

Fifth Independent Film Award 1963

Jack Smith

the father of the Cinema of Transgression and the initiator of camp and thrash trends, has, since the 1950s, been creating anarchist films and performances inspired by Hollywood B movies. In his productions, transvestites and drag-queens radically manifested their sexuality. Smith made his movies purposefully violate all the principles of zero-style cinema. They inspired later generations of cinematic outcasts and experimenters. Smith was born in Ohio in 1932 and moved to New York in the 1950s. He began using film no longer independently but as a component of performances. His Midnight Performances often started as late as 2 a.m. and lasted several hours. In many of his LIVE FILM performances, Smith completely reedited the film material, integrating excerpts, slides, text, and music. After Smith's death as a result of AIDS in 1989, Jim Hoberman and Penny Arcade founded the "Plaster Foundation", which commissioned Jerry Tartaglia to restore his films.

Filmography

1950–1966 Porządne istoty / Respectable Creatues (short)

1960 Przestymulowany / Overstimulated (short)

1962 Taśma klejąca / Scotch Tape (short)

1963 Płonące istoty / Flaming Creatures

1963 Normalna miłość / Normal Love

1963 Żółta sekwencja / The Yellow Sequence (short)

1967 Ziele z wyspy Technikolor / Reefers of the Technicolor Island / Jungle Island (short)

1967–1970 (1998) Byłam panem Yvonne De Carlo / I Was a Male Yvonne De Carlo (short)

1968 Bez prezydenta / No President

1969 Piosenka do wynajęcia / Song for Rent (short)

1970 Ujęcia bez tytułu / Untitled Film Rushes

1971 Północ w Plaster Foundation / Midnight at the Plaster Foundation (short)

1978 Sinbad z Bagdadu / Sinbad of Baghdad (short)

1979 Oszołomy / Hot Air Specialists (short)

Cast & Crew

director Jack Smith
screenplay Jack Smith
cinematography Jack Smith
editing Jack Smith
music Tony Conrad
cast Frances Francine, Sheila Bick, Joel Markman, Mario Montez (as Delores Flores)
producer Jack Smith
sales Gladstone Gallery
source of print Arsenal – Institut für Film und Videokunst
language English
colouration b&w