Tom, Tom, The Piper’s Son

Ken Jacobs’s rarely screened 1969 landmark of the American avant-garde is both a study in the dreamlike possibilities of rephotography and a film about watching movies. It begins with a 1905 short of the same title, a bizarre little narrative in which a large crowd tumbles through a doorway, leaps from a loft, and climbs out of a chimney in pursuit of the eponymous pig thief. Jacobs then presents the original film rephotographed: he slows it down, freezes frames, introduces flicker effects, and isolates portions of the frame, sometimes focusing on such a tiny area that we see mostly the grain. He continually varies the rhythm until the film becomes a series of carefully constructed riffs on particular characters or actions, or on pure shape. The original short’s amusing, somewhat extravagant chases become a different kind of chase, as new meanings emerge from the little dramas between alternating shadows or from background elements of the original. In a gesture at once didactic and poetic–a gesture that unlocks the whole film–Jacobs repeats the short very near the end, and now it’s glorious to behold: we see its imagery more actively and intensely, far more aware of its complex and diverse rhythms. Thus Jacobs teaches us how to resee almost any film, by mentally reframing its images or changing the speed of its action. Kino-Eye Cinema at Xoinx Tea Room, 2933 N. Lincoln, Friday, June 26, 8:00, 773-384-5533. –Fred Camper