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At the cinematheque: "Anaglyph Tom (Tom with Puffy Cheeks)"

Above: the longest sequence in the world, the ribald carnival scene in Tom.  Credit: Ken Jacobs.
Above: not three dimensions but two: flattened faces.  Credit: Ken Jacobs.
Above: one of the most charming bits of foolery, dawn rising over the film, falsely (compare to top photo).  Credit: Ken Jacobs.
More Tom foolery from that jester of the avant-garde, Ken Jacobs, who plays and manipulates the 1905 short Tom, Tom, the Piper’s Son with the gleeful aplomb of a man who hadn’t dedicated nearly two hours to the short in 1969 and then another two hours last year in homage to and in fascination with the cinema.  Anaglyph Tom (Tom with Puffy Cheeks) is in 3-D, a whole new reason to burrow deep into the short, I guess—freezing, slowing down, overlapping, laying moving areas of the frame over frozen sections, all with a wonderfully unexpected soundtrack—except, at least on video, the effect doesn’t work so well.  No, Jacobs' new film isn’t so much a 3-D reappraisal as a 2-D ode and appreciation, the 3-D spectacles more often than not flattening the silent film’s compositions into vibrant—and vibrating—hues of sharp red and blue.  Despite the film’s title and the purported effect, Anaglyph Tom is all about the splendor of the two-dimensionality of moving images, from the flat bawdiness of an early, Rabelaisian scene of a village gathering for merriment and mischief to the shocking echoes of contemporary torture amidst impossibly depthless graphic distortions at the end of the film.  Shall we wade through Tom again?  In light of inclusions of recent recession-era headlines and a plum C-SPAN snippet on out-modeled ideology, the resounding answer is yes: re-make, re-do-, re-explore Tom again and again until we can perceive it right.
Above: kaleidescopic wonder and moral murkiness.  Credit: Ken Jacobs.
Above:  Horrors, near total obscurity as a man is "tortured."  Credit: Ken Jacobs.
Anaglyph Tom (Tom with Puffy Cheeks) plays at the Anthology Film Archives May 15-21.

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