Friday, March 09, 2007

Star Spangled To Death (II)

Some quotes on the film by Ken Jacobs, from a couple of interviews available online:

From here (and also see his notes for that appearance): me the mind is always in the making, and this is the most extraordinary thing about we humans. This consciousness, and this sense, among other things, of the comic and the tragic, this ability to feel something about existence. So we look at Baghdad right now and say, my god, these are kids, half the population is children, what are we doing? We're killing children, children we understand as young life, full of potential for life. Life is what we care about. We don't want to see heedless destruction, stupid destruction, cruel destruction of life — dismissal of life.

So a work of art, for me, is... like in Star Spangled to Death — which by the way, in my mind is very, very form-conscious — is the greatest intensification of this quality we consider life, the most vital essence of this life. And you save the world, you save the kids of Baghdad by making a work that is — I can't say it better than this — vital. Now it might not be vital to social issues, but it's vital in itself. It's an achievement of vitality. It's alive.

From KJ's screening notes:
Star Spangled to Death is an epic film costing hundreds of dollars! combining found-films with my own more-or-less staged filming (I once said directing Jack and Jerry was like directing the wind). It is a social critique picturing a stolen and dangerously sold out America, allowing examples of popular culture to self-indict. Race and religion and monopolization of wealth and the purposeful dumbing down of citizens and addiction to war become props for clowning. In whimsy we trusted. 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 is a cine-visitation of the divine (the movie has raggedly cosmic pretensions). His character, The Spirit Not Of Life But Of Living, celebrates Suffering, personified by poor, rattled, fierce Jerry Sims, as an inextricable essence of living.... My head, inside, isn't all that different from what it was, I didn't become someone else, but I did get the work together and, in a profound way, that's the problem. It was supposed to lie in a jumbled heap, errant energies going nowhere, the talented viewer inferring form. A Frankenstein that fizzled but twitching and still dangerous to approach. Thoroughly star spangled but still kicking.

From here (also, Jonas Mekas in the same issue here):
I could not make a film like Fahrenheit 9/11. I respect Moore for what he did. That film was urgently needed. I made an art film. I'm a child of the 30s and the Great Depression. I grew up in New York during World War 2 and watched McCarthyism take hold, so I heard the rhetoric about the war against fascism or the war against Communism. For a while, I believed the rhetoric about patriotism and all the other lies that were fed to me, that we were the good guys. For example, it was hard to come to understand that even during the war against fascism this country did horrible things like bombing civilians or neglecting Jews. Also, coming to understand the extermination of Native Americans or the hundreds of years of slavery was important to me. I had to come to terms with the glowing propaganda I was fed about America's greatness. Especially with what is happening today under Bush, it seemed like the proper time to let all these thoughts out. The film is not nihilistic. The footage I shot that is in the film includes two protagonists played by Jack Smith and Jerry Sims. Jerry represents the idea that America is basically good, corrupt, but good. Jack represents a hatred for American society, almost a death wish for it.


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