Jack Smith and the Destruction of Atlantis (directed by Mary Jordan): It's not such an uncommon story—a misunderstood, sensitive, artistic boy moves from the sticks to Manhattan seeking creative and sexual freedom. However, Mary Jordan's documentary, Jack Smith and the Destruction of Atlantis, paints Jack Smith, the avant-garde photographer, filmmaker, actor and performance artist as hardly a common person. Influential on such filmmakers as Federico Fellini, John Waters and Andy Warhol, Smith's most notorious movie 1963's Flaming Creatures prompted a free speech case heard by the Supreme Court and was the only film banned in New York as well as 24 states and 4 countries. For those interested in the underground film movement in New York in the '60s, Smith is a really seminal, though obscure figure. This documentary portrait gives a real sense of Smith's struggles to get his work made and his role within the scene, from his exotic, free-form film shoots on SoHo apartment roofs to his late night, drug-fueled performance art pieces. Ultimately we see how Smith unfortunate insistence that his work remain unfinished (ostensibly to safeguard against getting banned again) kept him woefully obscure. But Jordan's documentary is a wonderful opportunity to see much of his luscious, weird and provocative work blown up on the big screen as well as hear from the crazy crew of friends and enemies who knew Smith. The film is playing now at Film Forum through April 24th, so don't miss it.
Other repertory offerings around the city include a selection of the best of this year's TromaDance Film Festival at Anthology Film Archives, and "On the Edge" a program of new independent films from China at the Film Society.
[Pictured: Jack Smith in Rome with his alter ego penguin doll named Yolanda Penguina in a normal gestural performance photo, Rome, 1974. Photographer: Ivan Galietti. Courtesy of and © Ivan Galietti.]