Razzle Dazzle The Lost World
Photos and Video
One of the pre-eminent experimental filmmakers working today, Ken Jacobs first received international recognition with his 1969 Tom Tom The Piper's Son, in which he rephotographed a 1903 film as it was projected onto a wall, exploring the individual personalities beneath the characters and the teeming grain of the film emulsion. Decades later, Jacobs reimagines these effects in a new technical medium: the digital canvas; this experimental narrative opus magnificently displays his newfound mastery of the digital filmmaking domain. With source material comprising turn-of-the-century stereopticon slides and an Edison film from 1903, Jacobs exploits a full repertoire of digital techniques, continuing his lifelong inquiry into the activity that lies latent in the two-dimensional film frame. By manipulating the digital pixels he treats the image as a painterly canvas and exploits the illusion of depth in a way that evokes cubism and abstract expressionism. Figurative images bleed into abstraction; vivid colors play against frames of black and white; individual frames bubble up, become distorted, and rotate in dizzying configurations. Jacobs also achieves amazing 3-D effects without the audience's need for special viewing glasses through his patented "Eternalism" system. The artist's critique of the current state of world affairs underlies the visual pyrotechnics, as shots of the characters on a merry-go-round swerve in unsettling, ungrounded fashion and stereopticon images of domestic bliss are interrupted with scenes of violence. An audio track of Thomas Edison discoursing about war suggests that Jacobs finds solace in his creative universe, far away from the global destruction wrought by the powers-that-be.
Director's Statement Collapse
It's not true that this is what it was like to have lived in Nazi Germany. No one tells me what I must or must not do as an artist and our heroes aren't vivisecting my family. True, the art-market and I go our own ways but maybe that's just as well. I count my blessings. It may be that the country is going down like a flushed turd (although New York is not expected to be inundated with water and slime for years to come, possibly a decade) but, if only until that day when China and the Saudi family put the pinch on USA to get their money back, we're doing fine. We live on my retirement money as professor-emeritus and, working in cheap video (as compared to film), we can even afford Erik Nelson coming over to assist (he likes to mess around with the computer: "Grab that, Erik!" I tell him, or I tell him "Let's manufacture a huge thunderstorm" and he says "Okay.") Nisi and Aza are deep into their own artmaking and our rent downtown is what's called grandfathered, meaning we're allowed to stay. Cosmopolitan New York even spares us obsessing on our Jewishness. In short, retirement has been like a delayed inheritance. Flo and I shall salute The Freedom Tower each morning, saying, "That's us; free."
I've picked up on the painterly play -going back at least to Cézanne- of contradictions inherent in depicting a 3-D world on a 2-D surface, having some Cubist-fun with contradiction (Hogarth also did some mischievous things) but with the added pathos of the photographed image. Black and white brings dignity and calm to the exercise.
I wish I could tell you different but this is gesture-time, nothing more can result and this for a short time only before The Dark Ages resume. Amazing scientific discoveries won't beat religious hysteria and greed and the square-jawed longing to dominate or destroy (Faluja). Damn shame? You bet.
Film Information Collapse
[RAZZL] | 2007 | 92 | Narrative Feature
Foreign Title: (Razzle Dazzle The Lost World)
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About the Director(s)Collapse
Born in Brooklyn in 1933, KEN JACOBS studied painting with Hans Hofmann before turning to experimental and avant-garde film in 1955, a genre in which he quickly became a seminal figure. In 1969 he founded the esteemed film program at SUNY-Binghamton, from which he recently retired as Distinguished Professor of Cinema. His magnum opus Star-Spangled to Death (1957/2003) stars the late Jack Smith and takes on 50 years of hypocritical U.S. culture. Jacobs is also known for his "film performances," in which he uses a pair of projectors collectively titled The Nervous System to juxtapose frames of preexisting film. Other highlights of his filmography include Little Stabs at Happiness (1958-60), Blonde Cobra (1959-63), Tom, Tom the Piper's Son (1969-71), and Keeping an Eye on Stan (2003). Jacobs' work has been shown at the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Biennial, the New York Film Festival and other museums and festivals worldwide.