By Aaron Hillis
By Casey Burchby
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Calum Marsh
By Kera Bolonik
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Ernest Hardy
By Eric Hynes
Having first seen In Praise of Love in Toronto last September 12, I found Godard's rote anti-Americanism particularly tiresome. A year later, his not unwarranted grievances seem subsumed in his melancholy film's overall sense of loss. It's not that America appropriates the rest of humanity's history so much as it solipsistically replaces that history with its own. The events of September 11 may well be the most extensively documented catastrophe in human history. Among the numerous anniversary series and screenings, I'd single out Ken Jacobs's feature-length video Circling Zero: We See Absence, showing twice this weekend as part of the "Attack and Aftermath" program at the American Museum of the Moving Image.
Circling Zero: We See Absence
A videotape by Ken Jacobs
September 7 and 8, at the American Museum of the Moving Image
No less than his acerbic Swiss contemporary, Jacobs is a cine-philosopher whose continually innovative and richly eccentric movies mix heady formalism with deeply intuited film-historical and social concerns. Circling Zero is less focused on the attack than its aftermath. Jacobs, who lives on Chambers Street (formerly in the shadow, literally, of the Trades), was out of town the day the buildings fell, and much of Circling Zero concerns his and his wife Flo's attempt to slip past the police barricades that marked the militarized forbidden zone and re-enter their loft. (Amazingly, they get through. Pasted on a neighbor's door is the scrawled note, "I Just Started Walking North.")
Jacobs interpolates some footage of the WTC aflame that was shot by his daughter Nisi from the building's roof. It's striking to note how many other people are up on their roofs similarly documenting the unfolding disaster. (One result is the real-time WTC Uncut, screening at AMMI September 11.) Circling Zero is intensely personalin visual terms, it's totally first-personbut it's also a portrait of the body politic. The crowds of cops, volunteers, vendors, and tourists that circle the absence are as organic as antibodies surrounding a wound. The tape's last half explores another fact of nature: the Sargasso Sea of flowers, votive candles, and handmade placards that consumed Union Square last fall. Jacobs is fascinated by the fantastic assemblage and new public space. The impromptu performances and metaphysical debates of this spontaneous agora are, in every sense, signs of life.
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