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Surreal Moving Images and Satirical Films of Jacob Burckhardt
A review by Larry Litt

A series of goofy, film noir comedies, all directed by Jacob Burckhardt, was presented February 2, 2008 at 8:00 pm at Millennium Film Workshop, 66 East Fourth Street (Between Second Avenue and Bowery). Anthology Film Archives, 32 Second Avenue, NYC will present two evenings of "visual mood" films by Burckhardt on April 18 and 19, 2008.

A moving picture in the mind of an artist can take many forms. Think of Jacob Burckhardt's mind as the recorder of his life journey and the teller of satiric tales. Both are Burckhardt working to create a visual mood that captures our attention with wit and sophistication.

For instance in his non verbal shorts "Black and White" and "Roma" he challenges the viewer to enter cityscapes as places with high level, intense sound tracks. These sounds draw the mind into the pictures with a new perception where before there were quite ordinary urban mechanical backgrounds. I felt the camera's eye seeking long and short views without recording the adjacent noise.

When inapt sound meets qoutidien picture a surreal art is created. That is the strength of Burckhardt's artful films. I see the city as an art object asking for recognition and critical acclaim.

A GONIFF AND A DICK -- Jacob Burkhardt as a bat-wielding hotel clerk; Royston Scott as the detective, Spade Slade, in "Tomorrow Always Comes" (2006).

On the other hand fictive film that parodies a genre that parodies another genre parodying itself is a tricky subject to carry off. It takes a firm hand with writing, casting talent and production. The desired campiness can easily become kitsch, ruining the intellectual jokes, affects and environmental effects.

In "Tomorrow Always Comes" hard boiled 'dick' Sam Spade, the all American racist, anti-Semitic creation of white supremacist satirical writer Dashiell Hammett, gets send up by Burckhardt. Royston Scott as Spade Spade, a gun crazed private dick with a chip all over him, tries to find a missing husband who doesn't want to be found. Cliched characters abound, killing, getting killed, having sex thinking about sex, eating sleeping, hanging in the seediest hangouts in what appears to be a grey, cold, hard boiled 1960s East Village. The fun of being a detective is infectious as is meeting wildly exaggerated characters. Royston Scott screenplay would make many Hollywood creative types jealous of his simplicity and chaotic characterizations. Where is he now that we need new inspired writers?

When parallel universe meet in reality only secret will know. That what happens in the short but potent "Duet For Spies." Experimentalist playwright Jim Neu script leaves one wondering if anything said in an interrogation has any meaning other than filling time and creating lust. Where is the desperately needed information? Who knows?

The charm of Burkhardt/Neu/Scott's collaborations on these art films is that they actually tell stories that hold your attention. What a silly world we live in, they say. So let's have fun while we can.

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