STAR SPANGLED TO DEATH REVIEWS & ARTICLES
 
Starring Jack Smith, Jerry Sims, Gib Taylor, Bill Carpenter, Cecilia Swan, Laurie Taylor, Bob Fleischner, Reese Haire, Jim Enterline, and Ken Jacobs
 
 
GENRE(S):
Documentary
Winner of Los Angeles Film Critics Association’s Douglas Edwards Experimental/Independent
Film/Video Award 2004
DIRECTED BY:
Ken Jacobs  
RELEASE DATE:
Theatrical: May 21, 2004 
RUNNING TIME:
400 minutes, Color 
ORIGIN:
USA 
 
   
DIGITAL VIDEO EDITOR: NISI JACOBS
 
 

"It's a stimulating, labyrinthine experience provided by a master of the American avant-garde and an historical artifact that is nevertheless piercingly contemporary."  read more....

-- Doug Cummings, FILM JOURNEY

"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."  read more....

-- Dave Kehr, NEW YORK TIMES

Review Summary  read more....

-- Dave Kehr, NEW YORK TIMES

"Finished—or perhaps abandoned—after nearly half a century of work, Ken Jacobs's monumental, monstrous Star Spangled to Death receives its first ever theatrical run this week at Anthology Film Archives. The movie is a six-hour assemblage of found audio-visual material ranging from political campaign films to animated cartoons to children's phonograph records, interwoven with gloriously eccentric original footage shot mainly on the streets (and in the dumps) of late-'50s New York."  read more....

-- Jim Hoberman, VILLAGE VOICE


"A rare work of art incorporating boredom, pain, and joy as experiences. Astoundingly alive, a true people's history of the last fifty years in American consciousness."  read more....

Christopher J. gave it a 10, METACRITIC

"Initially shot in 16-millimeter between 1957 and '59, periodically expanded and updated over the following decades, and completed last year on video in a six-and-a-half-hour final version, Ken Jacobs's magnum opus of political protest is made of the same basic ingredients as the rest of his oeuvre: beautifully shot scenes of cavorting friends and comrades (including Jerry Sims, a pre-Flaming Creatures Jack Smith, and some recent anti-Bush protesters) and found footage (including most of Nixon's "Checkers" speech, campaign propaganda for Nelson Rockefeller, a fatuously racist documentary about Africa, and Al Jolson in blackface). Semi-indigestible by design, this nonetheless steadily builds in political and historical resonance."  read more....

-- Jonathan Rosenbaum, THE CHICAGO READER


Star spangled Innovator

"Avant-garde filmmakers are hardly household names, and their work reaches only a fraction of the audiences of mainstream - or even art house - cinema. That hardly matters, for the likes of Kenneth Anger, Stan Brakhage, Jonas Mekas and Ken Jacobs have been and are the custodians of pure cinema. They remind us that film is an art form, that celluloid is a material as much as paint or stone, and that the possibilities for it have barely been explored."  read more....

-- Demetrios Matheou, LONDON FILM FESTIVAL

‘Despair is collaboration with the enemy.’ Ken Jacobs

"The Spirit Not Of Life But Of Living (Jack Smith) floats and stumbles through the world, delighting in action for its own sake. Suffering (Jerry Sims) upsets the cosmic balance by finding happiness in the consolation of his dolls. To restore order, the dolls are seized by The Two Evils, only to be returned by Misplaced Charity, plunging screen and viewers into Limbo."  read more....

-- Mark Webber, LONDON FILM FESTIVAL


"My year-end film list does not include “favorites”; it is not a top-ten (though I have limited it, by convention, to ten films in each category) and it is not a “best-of” list."  read more....

-- Harlequin Knights

Winner of Los Angeles Film Critics Association’s Douglas Edwards Experimental/Independent Film/Video Award 2004.

“Star Spangled to Death – Ken Jacobs began annotating a lyrical junkyard allegory with chunks of found footage in the late ‘50s; screened in various versions over the decades, Star Spangled to Death became his life’s work. Incorporating audiovisual material ranging from political campaign films to animated cartoons to children’s phonograph records, featuring Al Jolson, Mickey Mouse, the young Jack Smith, and a half-dozen American presidents, this vast, ironic pageant of 20th-century American history is a unique and mind-boggling contraption, the ultimate underground movie”. (J. Hoberman, Village Voice)  read more....

-- Synoptic Cinema Montreal


"The unveiling of Ken Jacobs' previously abandoned debut project Star Spangled to Death (Ken Jacobs, 1957-60/2003) (USA) was one of the highlights of the Festival, now completed in its longest cut complimented by contemporary inter-titles bemoaning the current state of America under Bush, among other things. The film is an obese mass of information, “a feast” as programmer Mark Webber described it."  read more....

-- George Clark, WORLD AND EXPERIMENTAL CINEMA AT 47th LONDON FILM FESTIVAL

"For better and for worse, American ambition is boundless. And nothing speaks more conspicuously to a country's ambition than its imperialism. During the past hundred years or so, our country has sought to paint the world in its image, and though its reach still exceeds its grasp, that gap is shrinking, and might not be around for much longer."  read more....

-- The 9th Cinematexas International Short Film Festival, THE AUSTIN CHRONICLE


 
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