Hi Res Press Photos
By Susan Gerhard
THE REUSE OF Leave It to Beaver-era stock educational footage has long put the air quotes around childhood. But the recontextualizing projects of San Francisco filmmaker Jay Rosenblatt, so focused on the strange alchemies of the tender years – innocence cut with cruelty, oddity, charm, and delusion – bring that kind of footage-rescuing to a fascinating new plane. San Francisco Cinematheque's new Rosenblatt program, "Matters of Life and Death: Phantom Limb and Other New Work," mixes the light and the dark of his recent oeuvre, from his awe-provoking post-Sept. 11 short "Prayer" (2002), whose images echo with the similarity between genuflection and the duck-and-cover pose, to the humor- and hope-generating "Worm" (2001, cocreated with Caveh Zahedi), in which anecdotal magic gets recalled.
Three new shorts, "I Used to Be a Filmmaker," "I Like It a Lot," and "Little Tramp" could be considered star vehicles for his outrageously charming daughter Ella, who perfected her Charlie Chaplin imitation at age three, but in this program, they hint at the curative powers of procreation as well as art creation: they contrast mightily with the feature of the show, Rosenblatt's new "Phantom Limb", a revisiting of the childhood death of his younger brother, a major tragedy that spun his family on a new, sad axis. His treatment of the death and decades of grieving – through personal narrative, amazing scenes of amputation and experimentation from medical archives, and contemporary interviews (one with a man who talks about his phantom limb) – reinforces what a truly strange balancing act survival of any kind actually is.
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