Among the 25 films that have been inducted into the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress this year are Portrait of Jason, a 1967 non-fiction film about a gay hustler, and Top Gun, a 1986 blockbuster starring Tom Cruise as a young pilot that has become regarded for its perhaps unintended homoerotic subtext. Film are selected based on how they “epitomize the diversity and richness of the nation’s cinematic heritage” and “have been identified as motion pictures that deserve to be preserved because of their cultural, historic or aesthetic importance.”
About Portrait of Jason, the Library notes:
In one of the first LGBT films widely accepted by general audiences, Shirley Clarke explored the blurred lines between fact and fiction, allowing her subject, Jason Holliday (né Aaron Payne), a gay hustler and nightclub entertainer, to talk about his life with candor, pathos and humor in one 12-hour shoot. Clarke originally envisioned Jason as the only character, but she subsequently revealed: “When I saw the rushes I knew the real story of what happened that night in my living room had to include all of us [the off-screen voices. her crew and herself], and so our question-reaction probes, our irritations and angers, as well as our laughter remain part of the film.” Bosley Crowther of “The New York Times” described it as a “curious and fascinating example of cinéma vérité, all the ramifications of which cannot be immediately known.” Legendary filmmaker Ingmar Bergman called it “the most extraordinary film I’ve seen in my life.” Thought to have been lost, a 16 mm print of the film was discovered at the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research in 2013 and has since been restored by the Academy Film Archive, Milestone Films and Modern Videofilm.
Jason and Shirley, a narrative film about the making of the classic documentary, played queer film festivals earlier this year.
Top Gun was originally considered a mega-hit that helped boost Cruise to his status as a top box office draw, as well as inspired young people to enlist in the military at a time when recruitment was at an all-time low. Then in 1994 a young actor-filmmaker named Quentin Tarantino unleashed a torrential monologue on the movie’s queer appeal in a costarring role in the 1994 rom-com Sleep With Me and Top Gun‘s legacy was forever changed.
Watch Quentin explain Top Gun‘s subtext:
Other films added include the 1997 crime drama L.A. Confidential, which featured a subplot about homophobia within the entertainment industry, 1966’s Seconds, a gripping drama that allowed Rock Hudson to demonstrate his underrated acting skill, and 1959’s Imitation of Life, a tearjerker that’s long been a favorite of queer viewers.
Watch the trailer for Portrait of Jason below and the famed volleyball scene from Top Gun further down.
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