Flaming Creatures (Jack Smith, 1963)
Filmed in black and white on a film that was probably intentionally scratched and used this one of a kind short film of 43 minutes was seized on the first day it was shown in Greenwich Village. Its director, Jack Smith an openly gay man wanted to make a comedy that presented the ambiguity of sexuality and gender. Showing the human body in its most simple way and crossing the line between erotism, pornography, and the stereotypical of genders. It is quite obvious that Smith wanted to make a clash with the American conformity of the society and its preconception of everything. It is a punch in the middle of the face to all the conservatism and the heterosexual « normal » behaviors.
Jack Smith was an artist that wanted to access to something way bigger than simple Cinema. To him, he was making art with Flaming Creatures and he would eventually be followed by more cinematic directors like John Waters while helping create a counter culture that the undergrounds of America was craving for. Because with the 1960’s, the culture of America exploded with the rise of Punk, minority movements, and everything not mainstream. The young generation of baby-boomers was so vast that it needed more than just the accepted big bands like The Beatles and The Beach Boys. As great as those bands were, there were kids who wanted to explore bands like The Stooges or MC5.
It was kind of the same when it came to Arts like Cinema, Smith wanted to explore with his experimental film that has been since labeled as obscene and pornographic. However, those words are bold and don’t render justice to the work and vision of the filmmaker. Even if while watching for the first time Flaming Creatures one can easily be surprised to watch a man shaking his flaccid penis, a simulated rape, and many breasts. There’s an evident what the fuck effect to this piece. Once you pass those elements and put the thing in context and perspective, we as cinephiles have the urge to force ourselves to suffer until we enjoy those little precious films that asks us more than the regular movie to actually understand and enjoy. Honestly, Flaming Creatures is not that enjoyable as a viewing but as a piece of movie history it is more than mandatory. As a film historian it is essential to try to grasp every angle that the movies have reflected from human behaviors and as peculiar as Flaming Creatures is, we must always remember that there is always more than the mainstream movements.
Finally, I must admit that I’m not too keen on experimental cinema, but when it comes to putting a film into perspective and History I think that any film deserves to be understood.