It seems only fitting that in the same year Jeffrey Katzenberg proclaimed 3-D to be the savior of big-screen moviegoing, that tireless celluloid elastician Ken Jacobs has routed the technology back to the very origins of cinema itself. Returning to the 1905 Edison short that he stretched like a rubber band into 1969’s seminal Tom, Tom, the Piper’s Son, Jacobs once again distends the picaresque one-reeler about a prepubescent pig thief to feature length, while simultaneously stereoscoping the action so that its crowds of antic villagers now seem to invade the space between the screen and the audience, like cardboard cutouts on marionette strings.
But wait—there’s more! Scarcely content with only two manipulations, Jacobs further slices and dices, bisecting and trisecting the image, stenciling parts out, even—using some of the same digital tools on display in last year’s Razzle Dazzle—flinging it at the viewer like a frisbee. The effects, while admittedly more Video Toaster than Pixar, reinvent the visual space with a restless vigor, and Jacobs takes palpable delight in having another plane upon which to project his magic lantern.
Lyrics from children’s nursery rhymes are freely superimposed, while the soundtrack features everything from diegetic sound effects to a baby’s incomprehensible babble. Periodically, Jacobs gives Edison a rest to weigh in on the current economic crisis, including an entr’acte that juxtaposes clips from the 1949 film version of The Fountainhead against C-SPAN footage of Alan Greenspan’s mea culpa over the subprime mortgage crisis—an unexpected digression that nevertheless reinforces Jacobs’s thesis that everything old is new again.