February 28, 2016
@ Alamo Drafthouse Ritz
The Illiac Passion is arguably Gregory J. Markopoulos‘ most important contribution to the wildly experimental New American Cinema of the 1960s. With its vibrantly-colored transference of ancient Gods to the stark urban playground of Beat era America, Markopoulos’ Passion shares common pagan themes with his friend Kenneth Anger’s much more widely seen Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome, with Markopoulos’ Greek mythopoeia functioning in lieu of Anger’s black magick preoccupations. Taking the Prometheus texts of Aeschylus, Thoreau and Shelley as its source material, Markopoulos crafts an astonishing oracular tapestry of juxtaposed and melding images, bursting with morphing multilayered superimpositions, jazzy free-form editing, and the beauty and grace of the human form.
The film’s aggressively experimental soundscape is composed of classical music and fragmented voiceover narration by the director himself. Gregory’s gritty Greek gods comprise a streetwise pantheon of the New York pop underworld, embodied by the likes of art critic Gregory Battcock; vampiric “Queen of the Underground” Beverly Grant; avant-garde poet, photographer and erstwhile assistant to Andy Warhol Gerard Malanga; spritely performer and “Beat Chaplin” Taylor Mead; provocateur filmmaker, performer and scenemaker Jack Smith; aged dancer, sculptor and painter Paul Swan; and Warhol himself. Ultimately too high-minded for the underground circuit of its time, The Illiac Passion pursues the Classically-minded poetic and romantic ideals that consistently defined Markopoulos’ creative output while interrogating (post)modernism and the ironic transformation of homoeroticism by New York’s disaffected subterranean camp coterie. This is an extremely rare 16mm screening of one of the most accomplished works of a master film poet and pioneer. Not to be missed or soon forgotten.
Programmed and introduced by Phil Fagan.