living organism that grew and grew over the period of 47
Ken says, "The film is done; it weighed on me all those
years." But I wouldn’t take that for the last word. Maybe
the only film I know that is Artaud: Monumental Song of
Despair & Hope. Of epic proportions, incredibly complex in
meanings. It’s an absolute masterpiece that will be seen
differently by every viewer. The greatest found-footage
film. No found-footage film can be made after this one; add
to it Joseph Cornell, Bruce Conner, Julius Ziz, and Bill
Morrison. A film that contains some of the most cinematic
and grotesque film material from the first 100 years of
A film that is not about avant-garde. A film that is not
like Brakhage or the last Bruce Elder, who create their own
worlds of their own making. This one creates a world
according to Ken Jacobs out of bits of the banal, clichéd,
grotesque, vulgar, dripping sentimentality that is being
sold to the people as real food and everybody feeds on it
and even enjoys it and then dies.
Jerry Sims in Ken Jacobs'
Star Spangled to Death.
Jacobs: "It is a social critique picturing a stolen and
dangerously sold-out America, allowing examples of popular
culture to self-indict."
So Ken takes a knife and cuts it all open. Irreverently and
lovingly and with a skill of a good surgeon he reveals it
all to us from the inside, and we do not know whether to
laugh, cry, run out screaming, or applaud.
And there is Jerry and Jack wrapped in it all, trying to
live in it, to exist one way or another—you have to be Jack
to still dance through it all at the same time as you cry
and starve. Yes, this is a film that sums it all up and you
almost hate it, but at the same time you know it’s all true,
it’s all true, this is all the America we live in, our home,
the official America of the 20th century, here it is on the
plate, so eat it and then vomit it all out.
Luckily for me, this is not my America in this film: I live
in another America, the America of my dreams.
*This piece originally appeared in
The Brooklyn Rail
and is republished here with the author's permission.