We’re proud to kick off our season of events with Ken Jacobs’ Star Spangled to Death, presented in collaboration with Electronic Arts Intermix. There will be brief intermissions between discs, including a midpoint break for a Star Spangled Supper with special guests in our courtyard. There will be a special Ken-Jacobs-guided-tour of original SSTD East Village locations for those who spend the day with us.
Star Spangled to Death by Ken Jacobs
USA, 1959 & 2003, 400 minutes, digital projection
An epic film costing hundreds of dollars! An antic hurdle-course collage combining found-film materials with Ken Jacobs own more-or-less staged filming. 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…you get the leftist-peacenik drift. Opposed to the topical miasma is a Beat (before the term) playfulness, realworld cruel, comic and tender. 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 as The Spirit Not Of Life But Of Living (the movie has raggedly cosmic pretensions), celebrating Suffering (genuinely rattled poverty-afflicted artist Jerry Sims) as an inextricable essential of living, is a visitation of the divine.
Top Film of 2004 | J. Hoberman, Village Voice
Number 3 Avant-Garde Film of the Decade – Poll, Film Comment
“With a running time of 6 hours and 42 minutes, Star Spangled to Death is the magnum opus of the independent filmmaker Ken Jacobs. Begun in 1957 as a backyard bohemian romp starring the avant-garde legend Jack Smith — an amazing proto-drag performer who later directed his own underground classic, Flaming Creatures — the project grew over the years to incorporate huge chunks of appropriated material, including, for example, the entirety of Richard M. Nixon’s 1952 Checkers speech and what seems like most of an early 30’s documentary on what was then known as ”darkest Africa.” – Dave Kehr, New York Times
“It’s a stimulating, labyrinthine experience provided by a master of the American avant-garde and an historical artifact that is nevertheless piercingly contemporary.” — Doug Cummings, Film Journey
Ken Jacobs was born, 1933, Brooklyn, New York. Studied painting with Hans Hofmann, 1956-57. Started making films, 1955. Created/Directed The Millennium Film Workshop, N.Y.C.1966-68; started the Dept.of Cinema at S.U.N.Y. at Binghamton, 1969; Professor of Cinema 1974-2000; Distinguished Prof. of Cinema, 2000; Distinguished Prof. of Cinema Emeritus, 2002.