Ken Jacobs

Ken Jacobs

Ken JACOBS (1933, USA) has been making films and film performances since 1955. For years he also worked as a film lecturer. In 2004 he was Film Maker in Focus in Rotterdam.

Filmography

Star Spangled to Death (1957), Little Stabs at Happiness (1960, short), The Whirled (1961, short), The Death of PT Town (1961, short), Blonde Cobra (1963, short), Baud'Larian Capers (1963, short), We Stole Away (1964, short), Window (1964, short), The Winter Footage (1964/1984, short), Saturday Afternoon Blood Sacrifice: TV Plug: Little Cobra Dance (1964, short), Naomi Is a Vision of Loveliness (1965, short), The Sky Socialist (1965), Lisa and Joey in Connecticut, JANUARY '65: "You've Come Back" "You're Still Here" (1965, short), Airshaft (1967, short), Soft Rain (1968, short), Nissan Ariana Window (1968, short), Tom, Tom, The Piper's Son (1969), Globe (1969, short), Urban Peasants (1975, short), Spaghetti (1976, short), The Doctor's Dream (1978, short), Perfect Film (1986, short), Jerry Takes a Back Seat, Then Passes Out of the Picture (1987, short), Opening the Nineteenth Century: 1896 (1990, short), The Alps and the Jews (1990, work in progress), Keaton's Cops (1991, short), Disorient Express (1995, short), The Georgetown Loop (1996, short), Flo Rounds a Corner (1999, short), Circling Zero: Part One, We See Absence (2002), Keeping an Eye on Stan (2003), Mountaineer Spinning (2004, short), New York Street - Trolleys 1900 (2004, short), Celestial Subway Lines/Salvaging Noise (2004), Krypton Is Doomed (2005, short), Let There Be Whistleblowers (2005, short), Ontic Antics Starring Laurel and Hardy: Bye, Molly! (2005), Pushcarts of Eternity Street (2006, short), New York Ghetto Fishmarket 1903 (2006), Two Wrenching Departures (2006), Capitalism: Child Labor (2007, short), The Surging Sea of Humanity (2007, short), RAZZLE DAZZLE the Lost World (2007), Nymph (2008, short), Anaglyph Tom (Tom with Puffy Cheeks) (2008), Return to the Scene of the Crime (2008), Ron Gonzalez, Sculptor (2009, short), What Happened on 23rd Street in 1901 (2009, short), Jonas in Kodachrome Days (2009, short), "excerpt from THE SKY SOCIALIST stratified" (2009, short), Bob Fleischner Dying (2009, short), Brain Operations (2009, short), The Day was a Scorcher (2009, short), Walkway (2009, short), The Pushcarts Leave Eternity Street (2011, short), 60 Seconds of Solitude in Year Zero (2011, short), Day and Night (2011, short), The Green Wave (2011, short), Cyclopean 3D: Life with a Beautiful Woman (Opening Sequence) (2012)

Ken Jacobs at IFFR

Blonde Cobra

Blonde Cobra

* 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. I think it was in late 1960 that Jack and I ignored our personal animosities long enough to record his words and songs for the sound track. The phrases he repeated into the tape recorder were mostly ones I'd at some time heard him say; most were pet phrases he loved to recite, over and over, his lessons. A very few I made up in his style. The procedure for recording his monologues and songs: I played him selections from my 78 collection, music from the `20's and `30's, sometimes only the beginning of a record and if he liked it would restart the record and immediately record. I don't think there was a second take of anything. Any lack of clarity is due to the very second-rate equipment, third-rate, fourth-rate, we were using. I play the harp for the Madame Nescience monologue. Jack supplied the Arabic music, there's also some SAFARI IN HIFI; a Villa-Lobos string quartet speeded up; a haunting section of a children's 45... `Baby Wants To Sleep". A small amount of my own previous shooting was cut into the film, the short `drowning in nescience' color sequence near the beginning. BLONDE COBRA is an erratic narrative -no, not really a narrative, it's only stretched out in time for convenience of delivery. It's a look in on an exploding life, on a man of imagination suffering pre-fashionable lower East Side deprivation and consumed with American 1950's, 40's, 30s disgust. Silly, self-pitying, guilt-strictured and yet triumphing-on one level-over the situation with style, because he's unapologetically gifted, has a genius for courage, knows that a state of indignity can serve to show his character in sharpest relief. He carries on, states his presence for what it is. Does all he can to draw out our condemnation, testing our love for its limits,....enticing us into an absurd moral posture the better to dismiss us with a regal `screw-off'." -K.J.

Ken Jacobs
  • 33'

  • USA

IFFR 2004

A Tom, Tom Chaser

A Tom, Tom Chaser

"I do an electronic riff on the MoMA print in A Tom Tom Chaser, concluding the NTSC edition. I'd been supervising a new digitizing of Tom, Tom at 15 frames per second (as against the 16 fps `standard' silent-speed of the PAL transfer; in truth there was no standard fps back then) because 15 fits neatly into NTSC's 60 fields/30 picture frames per second, thus minimizing compression `artifacts', a form of visual `noise' I wasn't welcoming. The riff was inspired watching Scott Olive, Tape House master technician, zip forward and back on their million dollar optical film-scanner. I asked Scott if we could record some of this discarded visual phenomena incidental to film-to-digital transfer. Sure, he said. I stood cheering him on to wilder aberrations and what we got is pretty much what you have, less some judicious excisions." -K.J.

Ken Jacobs
  • 11'

  • USA

IFFR 2004

The Whirled

The Whirled

Featuring Jack Smith 1. Saturday Afternoon Blood Sacrifice (1956) 2. Little Cobra Dance (1956) 3. Hunch Your Back (1963) 4. Death Of P'Town The first two shorts were shot around Jack's loft on Reade Street on two 100' rolls (Sunday morning, following Saturday's sacrifice, I saw there was another 50' left) in an impromptu way very different from my initial fastidious art-film approach. I would never be an art-film true-believer again. In 1963 a snatch of Saturday Afternoon....was shown on TV when I was somehow invited to participate in a TV quiz program called Hunch Your Back. (Back Your Hunch?) After years of shooting my raging epic Star Spangled To Death starring Jack as The Spirit Not of Life But of Living, and after a few months of being on the outs with each other, we got together for one last stab at friendship and at another film in Provincetown, Summer 1961. --K.J.

Ken Jacobs
  • 19'

  • USA

IFFR 2004

Mountaineer Spinning

Mountaineer Spinning

Rotterdam 2004 Film Maker in Focus returns with digital versions of his so far unique and rare live events for the first time. Nisi Jacobs videotaped the performances. The titles are also new works, and are not suitable for people prone to epileptic seizures! In Mountaineer Spinning, we seem to be seeing a rustic landscape, perhaps. Everything here seems to be a `perhaps', including allusions to Beauty and The Beast and whether we are seeing in 3D or not. As in real life, everything is in constant motion. Rick Reed does the Mendelssohn and here too, lines are blurred between life-recording and astral electrons at play. The second digital Magic Lantern performance sounds very different. These are selections from four live performances by musician John Zorn, assisted by Ikue Mori (improvising on laptops) in May and October of 2004 at Anthology Film Archives in New York. The viewer of Nervous Magic Lantern phenomena plunges, hovers, sinks and rises into illusionist deep space. The question of what we are looking at, tantalizingly suggestive as appearances might be, becomes of less urgency than from where in space we are viewing, and where and of what consistency and shape and size is the mass confronting us at any one moment, and when and how did it become what a moment ago it was not. It might be best to think of what you and others see as a group hallucination. In between those longer pieces is a short film, New York Street-Trolleys (11 min.), in which the Nervous System Performance is explained. (KJ)

Ken Jacobs
  • 26'

  • USA

IFFR 2005

International premiere