Jack Smith and the Destruction of Atlantis

“Maria Montez gave socialistic answers to a rented world,” declared underground filmmaker, photographer, and performance artist Jack Smith (1932-'89) in a statement that was reportedly printed and handed out at his funeral. It's to the credit of Mary Jordan's documentary that whatever else it overlooks, it makes that pronouncement comprehensible. Smith was a visionary anarchist artist whose pansexual and exotic utopian fantasies yielded only two finished films, Scotch Tape and Flaming Creatures, the first of which is mentioned only in Jordan's final credits. He resisted commodification by continuously reediting his other films and reworking his live performances—a dazzling legacy that influenced everyone from Warhol to Fellini to John Waters. In some ways Smith's art became commodified only after he died and his estranged sister gained control over his work, though that did lead to this documentary, a fascinating introduction to his special world. 94 min.

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