#2: Although I am absolutely certain that my appreciation for avant-garde and experimental cinema has its blind spots (and by all means, write in and point them out to me), I like to think that I have fairly broad tastes and am willing to meet most works more than halfway. Nevertheless, I certainly have predilections. And really, no filmmakers speak to me so thoroughly and consistently than the late 60s-early 70s generation, from Brakhage to the so-called "structuralists." There is a worldview and a seriousness of purpose that elevates these filmmakers for me, beyond fashion and into the realm of world-class masters. Anything new by Ernie Gehr, Michael Snow, James Benning, Yvonne Rainer, or Ken Jacobs is as much of a stop-the-presses, hold-your-breath event in my own private film culture as new features by Béla Tarr, Claire Denis, Abbas Kiarostami, Hou Hsiao-hsien, or Jean-Luc Godard. The fact that many of my cinephile friends and compatriots don't feel this way I can only consider their grave loss.

Sadly, I was unable to attend this years "Views from the Avant-Garde," and so I missed Ken Jacobs' newest work. In particular, many tongues were wagging (in both directions) about his digital video Krypton is Doomed, a piece that used audio from a "Superman" radio program to draw parallels between Jor-el's final days and present-day America, what could be the waning moments of our tattered democracy. Jacobs' work has had a bold, irrepressible political streak from the very start, and it's one I've always found inspirational. Whereas Jack Smith, Jacobs' early partner in crime, delved into a socialist-anarchism of the ramshackle, the disintegrating, and the thunderously uncivilized, Jacobs' work has always struck me as existing just on the very edge of that precipice, not for fear of tottering over but out of a curious commitment to intellectual brinkmanship. How can we push our ideas, our perception, to the limits of sense and tolerability, forcing them to turn into something else in the process? I'll admit that I personally identify with this approach. Rather than rejecting heterosexual marriage as a hopelessly corrupt institution, one asks how we can redeem it, turn it inside-out into something with radical emotional and political potential? Rather than avoid any and all contact with institutions -- schools, museums, political collectives --, how can we get inside them and go to work like termites, subverting their assumptions and putting them to unexpected uses?

In a way, some of Jacobs' recent work has adopted the same approach in relation to the past. How can we salvage what's important from our shared histories without lapsing into nostalgia? What still-seething energies can be tapped from years-gone-by, to liberate us from the tyranny of forgetting? Interstellar Lower East Side Ramble connects the lived texture of a life gone by with dual forces (the cellular and the cosmic), those unseen places where all that charged matter (neither created nor destroyed) is just waiting for us to get wise and go to work. This performance-piece, along with Garrel's May '68 film, are not roadmaps for activism or answers for atheistic leftist prayers, but they're more like unstable holding tanks for exiled cultural histories. These are the repositories for the true "culture of life," and they'll be waiting.