Legendary artist filmmaker Ken Jacobs has crafted a dazzling critique of his homeland
Star Spangled to Death is a 6 hour film containing a substantial amount of found footage cut in addition to Ken Jacobs’ very own work. The found sequences have actually been closely selected from primarily American relocating images produced in the last century and also span cinematic genres ranging from documentaries come fiction, TV shows, cartoons and information films. Jacobs’ very own film, which to be shot mostly in new York in ~ the end of the ’50s, stars Jack Smith and also Jerry Sims. Star Spangled come Death is superior not just for its size but additionally because the the plenty of years Ken Jacobs spent creating it. Since its very first screenings in 1957 the film has actually been constantly reedited, with new footage added.
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Its toughness lies in its biting critique the American politics and also ideology. The has argued that an alternative title because that the film would certainly be "American Failure". What is shocking in the film is the an extremely banality of lot of the original footage, making together it does violent presumptions around race, sex, imperialism and capitalism.
One that the films shown in its totality in the food of Star Spangled To death is Mother Love, an illustration of CBS Conquest, the 1950s clinical documentary series. Set in a college laboratory, it mirrors scientists using chimpanzees to examine a baby’s love because that its mother. The old-fashioned layout of filmmaking can amuse today’s spectator but its sexist presumptions, and the authoritative and also patronising format in i beg your pardon the so-called scientific research is presented, are quite disturbing. One of the film’s hidden agendas shows up to be to show the true nature the the ‘mother’ and therefore that the ‘woman’, through unlimited experiments. Meanwhile, silent female assistants hover in the background, patient, ever-present, gentle and also comforting: the declare is together nauseating together its demonstration is unreliable.
In Star Spangled come Death, the spectator is faced with a repugnant ideology and also shown exactly how its principles permeate the totality of the media, infiltrating even into the many unlikely the images. God’s step Children was made in 1938 by the black color director Oscar Micheaux, yet even a movie such together this unconsciously reproduces prevailing ideas about white racial supremacy. The black film industry, which obtained underway in the early on 20th century, was aimed in ~ a black color audience, and also sought to fight segregation and also influence how blackness was stood for on the big screen.
Although Micheaux presents plenty of of the political and social troubles facing the black ar in America, God’s action Children still reflects modern clichés around white being great and black being bad. Every the main characters in the extract preferred by Jacobs are black, however the ethically righteous room light-skinned, when the figure involved in illegal business is dark. Through imitating dominant white cinematic hierarchies, Oscar Micheaux reproduces discrimination based on skin colour.
The uncovered films selected by Jacobs otherwise evoke reactions varying from fascination to boredom and also irritation. In common with other lengthy experimental pieces, Star Spangled to Death enables its photos to speak for themselves, and also places good importance ~ above the spectator’s own reactions and thoughts. However, Jacobs also intervenes by mixing in other images and sounds.
In the middle of Nixon"s well known 1952 tv speech, that adds a mighty orgasmic moan onto an image of Nixon"s mam Pat gazing adoringly at she husband.
More importantly, the edits his very own footage with found sequences. In his initial film, Jerry Sims stars as the character "Suffering" and also the performer and also filmmaker Jack Smith as "The spirit Not of Life yet Of Living". Jacobs befriended blacksmith in 1956 while functioning on his an initial films. In Star Spangled come Death, smith embodies freedom and accuracy the thinking.
Viewed today, his character sums increase the freshness, power and energy the the new American Cinema that was arising at that time. Transparent the film he the cross the frame in mad costumes. Pull in turbulent materials and also carrying objects found in the street, Jack smith is fascinating in his poetic elegance. Jacobs" mise-en-scène is exemplary for the means in which it transforms a banal setup (a pavement top top a street corner) into a theatrical – even sculptural – space. His photos are filled v a multitude that characters and also accessories (sheets, barriers). Their depth and also richness room the polar the contrary of the advanced but stiff, lifeless uncovered images selected. Juxtaposed v Jack smith the Tramp, Richard Nixon seems favor the loser.
Through his selection, assemblage and mise-en-scène, Ken Jacobs creates the portrait that a totality country and also its ideologies. The undermines existing films, reversing their meanings and also subverting presume wisdoms. The Pincushion Man, a cartoon set into the work, displayed his intentions. It is collection in one exotic and colourful nation inhabited by smiley balloon-shaped people. They occupational happily and unquestioningly on the machine that has made and inflated them, as long as they are safe native the Pincushion Man. Yet when this dreaded character manages to penetrate into their balloon-world, he pierces lock one through one, laughing maliciously.
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Parallels through the film itself – and with the function of the filmmaker – space obvious. Pincushion guy Jacobs spangles us and our assumptions to death with the spikes the his stars, leaving a limp piece of deflated plastic where when there were the images of a shiny version world.