A man fondles objects, looks at himself in the mirror, poses in different clothes, smiles and makes faces at the camera while his voice on the soundtrack speaks of his despair, makes ... See full summary »

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Cast

Credited cast:
Ken Jacobs
Jack Smith ...
Madame Nescience
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Storyline

A man fondles objects, looks at himself in the mirror, poses in different clothes, smiles and makes faces at the camera while his voice on the soundtrack speaks of his despair, makes impressionistic statements and little songs, quotes greta garbo and maria montez, tells the story of a lonely little boy and (in drag) tells the story of a woman (Madame Nescience) who dreams of herself as the mother superior of a convent of sexual perversion. Written by jaguar4

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17 February 1988 (West Germany)  »

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1.33 : 1
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Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider. See more »

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Referenced in Divine Trash (1998) See more »

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Why Shave When I Cannot Think of a Reason for Living?
1 April 2014 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

What we now see as "Blonde Cobra" actually began as two films being made simultaneously in 1959-60, shot and directed by Bob Fleischner and starring Jack Smith. These projects have been described as "horror- comedy" and were short circuited by an accident that destroyed the raw film stock set aside to complete them. Fleischner later handed the remaining footage over to Ken Jacobs to see if Jacobs could do anything with it. Jacobs recorded Smith improvising monologues on tape and stretched the film with black leader in order to let Smith's recorded ramblings run their course. In a sense, the soundtrack is one of the most innovative aspects of "Blonde Cobra," with its mixture of radio news, old 78s, records played at the wrong speed and Smith's wild commentary. This was further accented by the use of a live radio at certain points in screenings of "Blonde Cobra" that is totally lost when the film is seen on the web. That "Blonde Cobra" took so long to finish diluted its impact somewhat, as by the time it was finally shown, "Flaming Creatures" and other, similar films were already playing in New York.

P. Adams Sitney in the first edition of "Visionary Film" and some others wrote in glowing terms about "Blonde Cobra" and it is true that repeated viewings of the subject can reveal different interpretations of what it may mean; it is very friendly to intellectual analysis as it is an intellectual film, albeit one that on the surface does not seem very seriously intended. Fleischner's footage is part horror movie and part home movie, and the narration provided by Smith is a mixture of sad childhood memories and fantastic sexual routines that take the project into an entirely different direction. Smith felt that Jacobs had made it "too dark" -- although separately he thanked Jacobs for completing it -- but the material as Jacobs received it comes from a very dark and tragic place, an aesthetic of boredom, decline and a longing to get back things that cannot be had among a group of impoverished young people who completely reject conventional morality, or even what is perceived as reality.

While some of the early writers on "Blonde Cobra" seem to overstate its case a bit -- it is not a masterpiece in the class of "Flaming Creatures" or Jacobs' "Star Spangled to Death" -- a fair amount of the web-based writing about it takes the opposite tack, condemning the film as unwatchable, uncomfortable, boring; a case of the emperor having no clothes. Look, there's no "emperor" here; Jacobs, Fleischner and Smith were not looking to entertain you or to fulfill your expectations as to what may constitute a movie in a basic sense. These filmmakers had no interest whatsoever in making commercial motion pictures or participating the in same game, with its rules, awards and criteria, as other kinds of movies. They were living a different kind of life from the rest of people around 1960 and looking for a way, in film, to express it. And despite being an outsider to this world, Jacobs found, in a structural sense, a new kind of film language to express it in, an approach that bypassed the usual relation of shots to slates to rushes to editing in favor of a kind of loose assemblage more akin to documentary film making. "Blonde Cobra" is what it is, and it isn't out there to impress you, though if you watch it more than once you have a better chance of "getting it" than if you struggle to the end of it, one time, or abandon it midway.


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