Saturday, May 10, 2014

Blonde Cobra by Ken Jacobs (& Bobby Fleischner)

with Jacky Smith & Jerry Sims

Jack Smith and Bob Fleischner started a couple of interrelated comedy/horror films together before abandoning them due to an inevitable falling out, at which point the film already shot (which wasn’t lost in the fire caused by Jack’s cat knocking over a candle) was given over to Ken Jacobs, who had had his own falling out with Jack but not so severely that they were unable to work on the sound track together.  They got together, Jack improvised, falling back on a lot of his usual routines (which is what Ken wanted) and they both played music from their record collections of old, familiar, and unusual tunes (among them Astaire & Rogers singing the Gershwins’ Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off,) and ended their former friendship on a productive note. 


I first saw Blonde Cobra in 1988 at the Whitney Museum of American Art on a double bill with Flaming Creatures.  Years later when I told my friend Jeanie (who had spent a lot of time with Jack during the last year of his life) that it was my favorite of the films that he appeared in but did not direct, she said that it was the film that seemed most like hanging out with him. 

I think Jacobs fully deserves credit as author of this movie.  The way he assembled it is distinctly his own, while the qualities his construction reveal are those of the object of his admiration: Jack Smith.  The use of the black leader for unexpectedly long periods as Jack continues babbling brings to mind Debord’s Howlings (Hurlements en faveur de Sade,) though less austere as well as reversed.  This is a perfect example of a movie as portrait.

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