Star Spangled to Death 2004
One of the last surviving giants of avant garde American cinema, Ken Jacobs spent 50 years assembling this six-hour epic video commentary on a half century of US mischief, mistakes and occasional downright madness.
Begun in the '50s, reworked and reshaped for both the national bicentennial and the Reagan '80s, and then "finalized" (or so Jacobs claims) shortly after the Iraq invasion, Star Spangled to Death often seems like it will last forever. (That's a compliment, natch.) Divided into three lopsided parts, the film is an oversized ode to incompleteness or, more specifically, to the last century's cultural detritus. The bulk of the film consists of archaic clips ranging from racist ethnographic studies of 1950s Africa, a CBS doc on scientists experimenting on rhesus monkeys, musical-short subjects, B&W cartoons of questionable integrity and, finally, footage of life during the war on terror. Jacobs shows most of these in their entirety, but only sometimes without direct commentary. When time comes to show all of Nixon's "Checkers Speech," he smears it with snickering, chatter, clips of Eisenhower, a lengthy insert on one man's love for his cat and, when attention turns to silent mascot Pat, sounds of orgasmic moaning. He goes even further with a fluffy campaign doc on Nelson Rockefeller, though Jacobs knows no amount of graffiti is required when showing the jawdropping "Going to Heaven on a Mule" number from the 1933 musical Wonder Bar--wherein a blackfaced Al Jolson plays a dying slave who ascends to a gaudily overwrought heaven featuring other blackfaced whites. Throughout, Jacobs shows pop culture as being at the mercy of society, and society to be terminally sick, racist and cripplingly religious, particularly when ruled by the film's revolving door of national supervillains (Rockefeller, Reagan, Dubya). Individual segments of Star Spangled to Death aren't exactly subtle, particularly when it turns to textual inserts (which he sometimes uses subliminally). But Jacobs lets the audience make the connections, especially as the canvas gets bigger and bigger. Eventually it seems like there's no way to stop the damn thing, and perhaps there's not.
So enjoy!

4 x DVD9 | NTSC 4:3 | 07:10:04 | 24.7 Gb + 3% rec
Language: English
Subtitles: English
Genre: Documentary

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