No President | Chicago Reader

No President

Like the three accompanying Jack Smith shorts in this program—Reefers of Technicolor Island (1967), I Was a Male Yvonne De Carlo (1970), and Song for Rent (made at some point in the 70s)—this 50-minute Smith “feature” of the late 60s, which has been shown in many different versions, is less a finished work than an arrangement of footage with nonsynchronized musical and voice accompaniment, so you may have trouble telling where one work leaves off and another one begins. While no Flaming Creatures, this is still chock-full of weird and wonderful stuff, and the sound elements, all found material, are often as arresting as the images. Some of the ingredients include Smith in a wheelchair, sporting a red wig, red satin gown, and orange-rimmed sunglasses, as Kate Smith sings “God Bless America”; lovely black-and-white footage of New York traffic punctuated by jets of steam and exhaust; voluptuous color double-exposures of lagoon and shellfish fantasies; Wendell Willkie addressing the “Future Farmers of America” and the 1940 Republican Convention; lengthy instructions on how to dance the male part in a tango; staged and costumed fantasies in Smith's cluttered loft; and a diverse selection of arcane found footage shown without its original sound. Consider it a kind of banana split of the imagination, put together by a blindfolded soda jerk.


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