Underground Film Journal

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REDCAT: J. Hoberman On Flaming Creatures

By Mike Everleth ⋅ November 7, 2009

Front entrance to the REDCAT Theater

Nov. 9
8:30 p.m.
REDCAT Theater
631 W. 2nd St.
Los Angeles, CA

Hosted by: REDCAT

Village Voice film critic and film historian J. Hoberman (Midnight Movies) is the world’s foremost authority on the 1963 underground film classic Flaming Creatures, directed by Jack Smith. Preceding a screening of the film, Hoberman will discuss the film’s creative origins and the charges of obscenity it faced after being screened.

Smith described Flaming Creatures as a “comedy set in a haunted movie studio” and features a cast of transvestites and artistic types vamping it up in front of the camera until an earthquake breaks up the good time. The film also does have brief male nudity and the suggestion of rape, which got it labeled as pornography. After one fateful screening, both Jonas Mekas and Ken Jacobs were arrested and eventually convicted of projecting pornographic material.

Film still from Jack Smith's Flaming Creatures in which an actress is molested by her male co-stars

Despite the arrest, Mekas continued to promote the film, which created a deep rift between himself and Smith. Feeling like he was being exploited, Smith refused to finish another film for the rest of his life, although he would screen footage he shot during live performance pieces he put on in his Manhattan loft space. Smith died on Sept. 25, 1989 from AIDS-related pneumonia.

Although Smith entrusted his creative legacy to fellow artist Penny Arcade, a dispute with Smith’s only living relative — a sister he rarely had any contact with — has prevented any of his films from being properly released.

Hoberman has been a fierce supporter of Smith’s throughout his entire career, particularly championing the place Flaming Creatures has as the single most important and influential underground film ever made. In 2001, Hoberman published a monograph on the film entitled On Jack Smith’s Flaming Creatures (And Other Secret-Flix of Cinemaroc).

This event is curated by Steve Anker.

For more info on this event, please visit the official REDCAT website.