In ‘Portrait of Jason,’ a campy queen and natural-born star

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Never trust the teller,” D. H. Lawrence said, “trust the tale.” That’s excellent advice, but not with “Portrait of Jason.” A restored print of Shirley Clarke’s 1967 documentary starts a weeklong engagement at the Museum of Fine Arts Wednesday.

In real-life terms, the teller here is utterly untrustworthy. He’s the film’s namesake, Jason Holliday: sometime cabaret performer, campy queen, unashamed hustler, natural-born star. In effect, the film is an extended monologue by him. Artistically, though, you can’t help but trust him. Like any star turn, Holliday’s performance rings utterly true. It’s that indefinable but unmistakable reality-beyond-reality called art.

Clarke (1919-1997) was a pioneering figure in American indie film.

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