Underground Glamour

2019 | Layering: Fashion, Art, Cinema

Saturday 9 March – 6:45 PM – Nite Owl Theater




Introduced by film scholar Tom Gunning

This pairing of José Rodriguez-Soltero’s lavish Lupe with Ron Rice’s landmark psychedelic masterpiece Chumlum features two of the most accomplished uses of superimposition in underground film, transporting drag glamour into a profoundly hallucinatory dimension.

Lupe is a visually stunning celebration of the life and death of Mexican Hollywood star Lupe Velez. In this ecstatic explosion of color, costume, music, camp performance and multiple superimpositions, José Rodriguez-Soltero drew inspiration from new wave and experimental film; Latin American, pop and classical music; trash culture; experimental theatre, and Kenneth Anger’s exposé Hollywood Babylon. Lupe is also a love poem to the underground star Mario Montez who designed his own sensational costumes and took immense cultist pleasure in identifying with the tragic Latino star.

Before his untimely death in Mexico in 1964, Ron Rice was among the most charismatic figures of the New York underground. His Chumlum is beautifully disconcerting. Intricate superimpositions mix in – and outdoor milieus and the capers of a colorful gaggle which includes Jack Smith and Mario Montez as they loll about, pursue, and listlessly fondle each other in a riot of costume and color. Experimental musician (and Velvet Underground drop-out) Angus MacLise composed the spacey soundtrack.



USA 1966. Dir. José Rodriguez Soltero. With Mario Montez. Costumes by Mario Montez.



USA 1964. Dir. Ron Rice. With Jack Smith, Beverly Grant, Mario Montez, Joel Markman, Frances Francine, Gerard Malanga.

Total running time c. 76 mins


Tom Gunning

Tom Gunning is Edwin A. and Betty L. Bergman Distinguished Service Professor of Art History, Cinema and Media Studies, and the College Classics at University of Chicago. He works on problems of film style and interpretation, film history and film culture, focusing on early cinema and the culture of modernity from which cinema arose (including still photography, magic lantern shows, the World Expositions, and Spiritualism). He has also written extensively on American avant-garde cinema and Hollywood film. Gunning has published three books –  Fantasia of Color in Early Cinema, The Films of Fritz Lang: Allegories of Vision and Modernity (winner CINEMA & Cie award) and D. W. Griffith and the Origins of American Narrative Film: The Early Years at Biograph – and over a hundred articles, catalogue essays, and book chapters. In 2009 he was the recipient of the Distinguished Achievement Award from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, in recognition of his major contribution to the fields of film history and theory.