STAR SPANGLED TO DEATH is an epic film shot for hundreds of dollars! combining found-films with my own more-or-less staged filming, it pictures a stolen and dangerously sold-out America, allowing examples of popular culture to self-indict. Racial and religious insanity, monopolization of wealth and the purposeful dumbing down of citizens and addiction to war oppose a Beat playfulness.
A handful of artists costumed and performing unconvincingly appeal to audience imagination and understanding to complete the picture. Jack Smith’s pre-FLAMING CREATURES performance as The Spirit Not Of Life But Of Living (the movie has raggedly cosmic pretensions), celebrating Suffering (rattled impoverished artist Jerry Sims) at the crux of sentient existence, is a visitation of the divine. Continue reading
Ken Jacobs’ most recent stroboscopic work transforms a typical New York street scaffolding scene into a mesmeric, Christo-esque merry-go-round.
In his most recent stroboscopic work, Canopy, Ken Jacobs sets a typical New York street scaffolding scene into mesmeric, gravity-defying motion. An elegant, immersive miniature with a strange faux stereoscopic effect, it takes off like a Christo-wrapped gravitron. Continue reading
Ken Jacobs’s avant-garde landmark (1969) is both a study in the possibilities of rephotography and a film about watching movies. It begins with a 1905 short of the same title, in which a large crowd of people tumble through a doorway, leap from a loft, and climb out of a chimney in pursuit of the eponymous pig thief. Jacobs then rephotographs the film–slowing it down, freezing frames, introducing flicker effects, and isolating portions of the frame, some so tiny that we see mostly the grain. As he varies the rhythm the film becomes a series of carefully constructed riffs on particular characters or actions, or on pure shape; new meanings emerge from the little dramas between alternating shadows, or from background elements of the original. In a gesture at once didactic and poetic, Jacobs repeats the short near the end, and now it’s glorious to behold: we see its imagery more actively and intensely, far more aware of its complex and diverse rhythms. Thus Jacobs teaches us how to resee almost any film, by mentally reframing its images or changing the speed of its action. 86 min. Continue reading
Images gathered by Bob Fleischner, sound-film composed by Ken Jacobs. “Jack says I made the film too heavy. It was his and Bob’s intention to create light monster-movie comedy. Two comedies, actually, two separate stories that were being shot simultaneously until they had a falling-out over who should pay for the raw stock destroyed in a fire started when Jack’s cat knocked over a candle; Jack claimed it was an act of God. In the winter of ’59 Bob showed me the footage. Having no idea of the original story plans I was able to view the material not as the fragments of a failure, of two failures, but as the makings of a new entirety. Bob gave over the footage to me and with it the freedom to develop it as I saw fit. Continue reading
From VILLAGE VOICE:
A shuddering, flickering tribute to two lost compatriots, Ken Jacobs’s Two Wrenching Departures took its original form in 1989 as one of Jacobs’s live “Nervous System” cine-improvisations on dual 16mm projectors. Earlier that year, his former collaborators Bob Fleischner and Jack Smith died within a week of one another—an ironic conjunction, as the pair had been at odds for years, long after Jacobs, Fleischner, and Smith had chaotically joined talents in the late ’50s to create Blonde Cobra, a grimly glamorous rummage through trash-pile transvestism that was one of the most celebrated titles of the pre-Warhol underground scene. Continue reading