MARY JANE'S NOT A VIRIN ANYMORE
Color, 1996, 95 mins. 21 sec.
Directed by Sarah Jacobson
Starring Lisa Gerstein, Chris Enright, Greg Cruikshank

I WAS A TEENAGE SERIAL KILLER
B&W, 1993, 25 mins. 11 secs.
Directed by Sarah Jacobson
Starring Kristin Calabrese
AGFA (Blu-ray & DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC)


Still Mary Jane's Not a Virgin Anymorean unsung maverick who came in at the forefront Mary Jane's Not a Virgin Anymoreof both '90s indie filmmaking and a new generation of female filmmakers, New York-based writer-director Sarah Jacobson would likely be better known had her life not been cut short so soon. In fact, she only has one feature film to her name: Mary Jane’s Not a Virgin Anymore, shot on Super 8 color reversal film with a deliberately rough and gritty sensibility that still divides unsuspecting viewers. Jacobson had already earned attention with her 1993 lo-fi B&W short, I Was a Teenage Serial Killer, made under the wing of avant garde legend and mentor George Kuchar whom she had met at the San Francisco Art Institute. She also took the unusual step of selling her films directly through mail order rather than going through the usual film distribution routes. In a New York Press interview Jacobson recalled being exposed to counterculture films through the influential TV series Night Flight on USA, with Susan Seidelman’s Smithereens in particular sparking a revelation: "I decided then that I wanted to make films in which women didn’t get killed, raped or married—cool films about cool women."

The process of making Jacobson’s sole full-length feature took three years from writing to completion, with its premiere screening held at the Chicago Underground Film Festival. As the title indicates, the film deals with female sexuality in a casual and positive way courtesy of Jane (Gerstein), a movie theater employee whose loss of virginity becomes the catalyst for a bold Mary Jane's Not a Virgin Anymorelook at coming of age and all of life’s challenges that come along in the process. Aiding Jacobson’s cause was her affiliation with movers and shakers in the Mary Jane's Not a Virgin Anymorelocal film and music scene, most notably a particular champion in fellow female director Tamra Davis, who made a splash with Guncrazy in 1992.  The film also boasts some of her other connections in cameo roles including Kuchar, Dead Kennedys’ Jello Biafra, and even a fleetingly-glimpsed Garry Marshall. However, Jacobson never leans on anyone else to get her voice through loud and clear in the film and pull viewers directly into the perspective of the female protagonist. Tragically, Jacobson would pass away in 2004 from uterine cancer at the age of 33. However, she left behind a film that can stand proudly as a ragged-edged entry in the salvo of female-centered art house entries of the era ranging from Slums of Beverly Hills and Manny & Lo.

Both of Jacobson's completed narrative works were eventually tagged for preservation by the American Genre Film Archive and made their legit broadcast debuts in late 2018 on Turner Classic Movies, incredibly enough, a far cry from the very subterranean distribution they had during the director's lifetime. That was soon followed by 2019's The Films of Sarah Jacobson, a Blu-ray and DVD combo compiling what appears to be all of her substantial existing work in one easy package. The headliner here is Mary Jane of course, looking about as good as you could expect for a title sourced from what's cited as the only 16mm film element in existence. The DTS-HD MA English mono track is also fine for what amounts to a very basic and Mary Jane's Not a Virgin Anymoresometimes Mary Jane's Not a Virgin Anymorerough sound mix, with a Dolby Digital option also offered for some reason (and not accessible from the menu). I Was a Teenage Serial Killer is tucked away in the "D.I.Y. Extras" as a "Bonus Movie," so be sure to watch that one right after the main feature (or even before it); again the quality is dependent on the source but as solid as could be expected. The film itself is grittier and more transgressive by comparison as it charts a young woman's homicidal response to the oppression she faces every day, with some splashes of gore here and there for good measure. Also included in the extras is a selection of Jacobson's shorter work in SD: Bra Shopping (11m30s, a dupey VHS account of a broke Jacobson going with her mom to buy a second bra just after making her feature); The Fabulous Stains (11m49s, a retrospective featurette about Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains); Road Movie, or What I Learned in a Buick Station Wagon (9m48s, a funny staged account of a cathartic road trip following a hostile response to a finished film); Spferic Waves (3m24s, a 1995 Man or Astro-Man? music video); and Technicolor-Yawn-Fluffy (31m33s, a live performance and EPK for the punk band Fluffy). The disc also comes with an insert featuring liner notes by AGFA's Alicia Coombs (on Mary Jane) and Bleeding Skull!'s Annie Choi (on Serial Killer) with their own takes on the films' importance and place in the indie film scene.