1972. USA. The artist’s masterwork, a diary film in which he presents his life and milieu through old home movies and newly-staged scenes, many hand-colored and animated for emotional and psychological effect. 81 min.
The life of Jerome Hill corresponded with the first seven decades of cinema and a greater part of the 20th century. Through fragments of Hill’s painted, surrealistic, and documentary films, this autobiographical work explores the years during which he was developing as a young man and an artist.
Insights into his childhood in the St. Paul home of James J. Hill, his creative life in New York, and his guest-filled house in France shape a beautiful and aesthetically complete documentary of one man’s view of art in society, expressed through a very telling mix of emotional filters.
As critic/filmmaker Jonas Mekas notes, "Jerome Hill's film FILM PORTRAIT is one of the key works in the comparatively new genre of the diary film, the autobiographical film. It's a genre of film where the author works basically with the footage that comes from close around his life. By means of this footage, he leads us into the period of the class from which he comes, or into his own ideas. In this particular case, among many other things, through the FILM PORTRAIT, Jerome Hill leads us into a social background that is not only very uniquely American but which also is about the least documented in cinema-at least not as genuinely as Jerome Hill does it in his film: the life, the feeling, and the style of the well-to-do American class at the beginning of the century. Specifically, the film deals with the family of James J. Hill, the family that built the railroads of America, and the development of Jerome Hill himself as a Young Man and an Artist. Since the period dealt with in this film coincides with the development of Cinema as a Young Art, and the development of the Avantgarde Film as a form of cinema, FILM PORTRAIT becomes also a film about the art of cinema and a film about the Avantgarde Film... It's about the liberation of an artist from the bonds of his family, his class, the fashionable art styles, and one thousand other bonds: a liberation through cinema..."