The Last Clean Shirt

Olivier Brossard: 'The Last Clean Shirt'

A film by Alfred Leslie and Frank O'Hara, 1964

Still from the film 'The Last Clean Shirt', 1964
Still from the film 'The Last Clean Shirt', 1964

Where they’ve come from. We’re not even up to 23rd Street yet. Sings a little song in middle. ‘I hate driving.’ — Frank O’Hara, ‘The Sentimental Units,’ Collected Poems, 467.

In 1964, American painter and film maker Alfred Leslie and poet Frank O’Hara completed the movie The Last Clean Shirt. It was first shown at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 1964 and later that year at Lincoln Center in New York, causing an uproar among the audience. The movie shows two characters, a black man and a white woman, driving around Manhattan in a convertible car. The Last Clean Shirt is a true collaboration between a film maker and a poet since Frank O’Hara wrote the subtitles to the dialogue or rather the monologue: the woman is indeed the only character who speaks and she furthermore expresses herself in Finnish gibberish, which demanded that subtitles be added.

Olivier Brossard’s article (with stills from the movie) is 9,000 words or about twenty printed pages long. You can read it all here, in Jacket 23.

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