More artifacts than art, Jerovi and Lupe—two films by José Rodriguez-Soltero preserved by the Warhol Foundation and restored by Anthology Film Archives—are prime examples of the mid-’60s New York underground, queer Latino acid-head division.
Rodriguez-Soltero was in his twenties, under the influence of Flaming Creatures and early Warhol, when he made these two exercises in super-saturated Kodachrome II thrift-shop glamour. Jerovi is a silent 10-minute study of a young dude who sheds his form-fitting brocade outfit—but not the red, red rose that he’s clutching—for some passionate al fresco onanism. This “sexual probe of the Narcissus myth,” per the filmmaker, was banned from the 1965 Ann Arbor Film Festival but wound up cited by Jonas Mekas as one the year’s best movies.
Thus encouraged, Rodriguez-Soltero embarked on a follow-up homage to Hollywood’s “Mexican Spitfire,” Lupe Vélez, whose suicide is graphically detailed in Kenneth Anger’s Hollywood Babylon. It was during the nine months that Lupe was in production that Rodriguez-Soltero staged his infamous LBJ at the Bridge Theater on St. Marks Place. Accompanied by the martial beat of America’s No. 1 song, “The Ballad of the Green Berets,” the filmmaker set fire to an American flag. (According to reporter Fred McDarrah, “The impact on the audience was sensational”: The event got a full-page spread in the next week’s Voice.)
Lupe is a bit more staid than LBJ, but no less of its moment. A persistent mess set to a mix of schmaltzy Spanish ballads, the Rolling Stones, flamenco, and Vivaldi, it’s essentially generous—first, because it encourages the viewer to appreciate the greatness of other movies, and second, because it provides a vehicle for its star. The most appealing of drag queens, discovered and named by Jack Smith (although he’s billed in Flaming Creatures as Dolores Flores), Mario Montez is poignantly unconvincing as Lupe—tall, sinewy, and big-featured—but no lessbeautiful for that. He carries the movie on his broad shoulders.