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RAY COHN/JACK SMITH

USA, 1994 (MIFF 1995)

Director: Jill Godmilow

A clash of the Titans! Roy Cohn, the homo­phobic rightwing bible thumper who came to prominence as McCarthy's right-hand man during the fifties witch-hunts, and Jack Smith, notorious underground filmmaker/performer (director of the 1963 camp classic Flaming Crea­tures) confront one another in a mesmerising per­formance piece by the icon of the New York theatre scene Ron Vawter.

These two legendary and equally infamous contemporaries could not have been more dif­ferent except for the fact they were white gay men living through oppressive times. Both political in their respective ways, closeted Cohen used his backroom conservative politics as drag (a guise to conceal his sexuality) whilst out and outrageous Smith went from backroom to centre stage turning drag into sexual politics through his Arabian Nights/B-movie kitsch inspired performances.

Shot entirely at the Kitchen theatre New York in late 1993, director Dill Godmilow and cine-matographer Ellen Kuras (Swoon) capture the immediacy of Vawter s portraits transforming theatre into challenging cinema. Roy Cohn/Jack Smith also stands as an elegant memorial for actor Ron Vawter (founding member of the hugely influential Wooster Group he was last seen here in Philadelphia) who, like the characters he so vibrantly brings to life, recently died of AIDS-related complications.

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