Artists Space

Not Even Acting

September 9, 2018, 1:15pm

This screening takes place at Metrograph and is part of the Jack Smith Film Retrospective program series.

-dir. Ken Jacobs, The Whirled (aka The Four Shorts of Jack Smith), 1956-63, 16mm, (sound, color), 20 minutes
-dir. Ken Jacobs, Blonde Cobra, 1963, 16mm, (sound, black and white), 33 minutes
-dir. Ken Jacobs, Little Stabs at Happiness, 1963, (sound, color), 15 minutes
-dir. Ron Rice, Chumlum, 1964, 16mm, (sound, color), 26 minutes
Total running time: 94 minutes

A collage-style image with a person looking towards the camera, a woman
Chumlum. Dir. Ron Rice. 1964. 16mm, (sound, color). [A collage-style image with a person looking towards the camera, a woman's hand, beads and several other objects.]

Jack Smith first appeared in the avant-garde scene as an actor of sorts, starring in a number of performance-driven films by Ken Jacobs. After meeting at the City College of New York, the two began a period of intense collaboration, working together on a series of films that dramatize the relationship between actor and filmmaker, subject and camera, Hollywood and the avant-garde. The program begins with Jacob’s The Whirled, a series of four short films starring Jack Smith: Saturday Afternoon Blood Sacrifice (1956), Little Cobra Dance (1956), Hunch Your Back (1963) and Death of P’Town (1961). Shot on two 100' 16mm rolls, the films capture Smith gallantly leading a ceremonial blood-letting, stalking a Provincetown cemetery as a “fiery vamp,” and graciously receiving an academy award in the form of a melted candle stick in his loft on Reade Street.

Constructed from abandoned footage of Smith shot by Bob Fleishner, Blonde Cobra is a “light monster-movie comedy” that takes inspiration from the Hollywood flick Cobra Woman (1944), starring Smith’s muse Maria Montez. Scored with repetitious voiceovers by Smith and songs from the 1920s, the film captures a luridly costumed Smith smoking and applying make-up. Little Stabs at Happiness, explores the affective possibilities of despair, dramatizing boredom and sexual rejection, which is heightened by Smith’s turbulent voice-overs. The program ends with Ron Rice’s hallucinatory Chumlum (1964). Shot during lulls on the production set of Smith’s Normal Love, the film features Smith’s actors Mario Montez, Beverly Grant and Gerald Malanga and a soundtrack by Angus MacLise and Tony Conrad.

Chumlum restored by Anthology Film Archives and The Film Foundation with funding provided by The George Lucas Family Foundation. Special thanks to John Klacsmann.

Thank you: Anthology Film Archives, Isaac Alpert, Barbara Gladstone, Claire Henry, J. Hoberman, Ed Leffingwell, Jerry Tartaglia.

Organized by Kathrin Bentele, Stella Cilman, Jay Sanders, and Jamie Stevens.

Presented in collaboration with Metrograph.