The Museum of the Moving Image concludes its Laurel and Hardy retro with the team’s greatest posthumous performance. Ken Jacobs’s Ontic Antics—originally scored for his dual projector Nervous System apparatus, now preserved on DVD—transforms the 1929 two-reel talkie Berth Marks into a 55-minute sensory blitz. This hyper-visceral presentation is not for the faint-hearted (nor anyone prone to epileptic seizure). Ontic Antics is a fantastic pulsating strobe created by the alternation of (flipped) frames, as well as various other forms of screen-splitting repetitions. The original narrative isn’t deconstructed, it’s detonated—and as Ollie is made to dance and Stan to fly, the comedy is re-choreographed. The experience is avant-garde yet archaic, predicated as it is on the fact of motion pictures: Ontic (as in ontological) Antics indeed. Returning to ground zero, Jacobs makes it all new—again. Fernand Léger imagined his 1924 Ballet Mécanique as a vehicle for a Charlie Chaplin marionette. Jacobs’s ballet mécanique has gone Léger’s one better and, in its perceptual slapstick, also bettered it.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on November 29, 2005