Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Blonde Cobra

Blonde Cobra
Director: Ken Jacobs
Starring: Jack Smith

So I realized that I had been posting lately about many films that I really enjoyed.  My average ratings have been rather high.  While I certainly fully and freely enjoy film and make no apologies for liking many movies, I also did not want to give anyone the impression that I automatically like every movie I see. 

I am remedying my glut of positive reviews by writing about Blonde Cobra, aka one of the most inane pieces of shit I think I’ve ever seen.

The film has no plot.  Instead, we simply have footage of performer Jack Smith acting in various ways.  The film “treats” us to two of Smith’s main types of performances.  Either he’s traipsing around his New York City apartment in garish costumes and mugging for the camera, or the screen is black and Smith is telling rambling barely coherent stories. 

Yup, that’s this “movie.”

I’m honestly not sure what was worse: the incredibly grainy, shaky, and poor footage of Smith wearing god-knows-what and smiling slyly for the camera while completely unrelated sound bites play over the scene, or when the camera goes black and we get “treated” to one of Smith’s tangential tales rattled off in his nasal monotone voice.  Actually, I think the former was worse, because at least when Smith was telling one of his completely random stories, I was able to do other things, like check my email for the sixth time during the 33-minute run time or reblog a post or seven on tumblr.  And when Smith starts cackling maniacally in said monologues, I at least laugh, but not because it’s funny; rather, I laugh in the way I’d laugh at a madman if he started laughing at me.  I think if I go along with him, I’ll keep the insane guy placated well enough to distract him from the fact that I am currently calling the cops on his nutso ass.  The nice men with the large butterfly nets will be here momentarily, Jack.

The write up for this in 1001 Movies states that it’s an “alluring portrait of the improvisational talents of a great experimental performer.”  I can empirically understand that films showcasing the abilities of significant personalities deserve a slot on a must-see list, but here’s my big beef with this idea in terms of Blonde Cobra: I have no fucking clue who Jack Smith is.  Why on earth do I want to watch 33 minutes of him in a gypsy headpiece and not much else hiding in his bathtub?  I had never heard the name Jack Smith before I embarked on my journey through 1001 Movies, and while I am sure he is a “very important underground performer,” he means nothing to me.  In fact, now that I’ve gone through the films of the sixties, this is what I know about Jack Smith: he’s on camera in Blonde Cobra, and responsible for the utter dreck that is Flaming Creatures, a film I liked even less than this one.  My opinion of him is not terribly high.

I will now be very fair to Blonde Cobra and state that it is most definitely an experimental film, and I am not a fan of experimental film.  I am predisposed to disliking it, and I completely admit to not understanding it.  My opinion of it is thusly colored.  Feel free to consider me a plebeian for not enjoying this film.  I’m okay with that. 

I try very hard to understand why every film granted a berth in 1001 Movies is deserving of its spot, and I think I tend to be very forgiving.  I’m still a bit at a loss as to why Blonde Cobra is considered “must-see.”

So utterly not my cup of tea.

Arbitrary Rating: 2/10.


  1. Yeah, I hated it, too. What a pile of stink. I'd say that Jack Smith can bite me, but my guess is he'd probably enjoy that more than I would.

    At least it's short.

    1. The fact that it's short is probably the biggest compliment I can pay this movie.

  2. Hee hee hee. For me, this was at least better than Vinyl, so I'll be excited to see what you have to say about that one. Vinyl made me cry inside, at the loss of my movie-critic innocence.

    1. Sigh... Vinyl... what the eff is that piece of nonsense...

      "made me cry inside"

      Yes. Good God yes.

  3. As Steve said, the only thing good about this is that it's short. I will also agree with Adolytsi and say that Vinyl may be the very worst thing I've seen from the list.

    I'm with you on experimental films. To me "experimental" is a euphemism for "nothing that anyone would ever want to watch."

    1. euphemism for "nothing that anyone would ever want to watch."

      Yeah. Agreed. There are one, maaaaaaaaaaaybe two films that can be considered experimental from the list that I didn't mind watching, and "don't mind watching" is about the greatest praise I'm willing to give. ("Tale of the Wind"
      being the one guaranteed one I didn't mind watching - I found it charming in an odd kind of way - and I have to watch the George Kuchar one again - I vaguely remember not minding it, but it's been too long so I won't commit either way. It must be re-evaluated.)

      I remember watching "Vinyl" and thinking "what the HELL is going on? Is this for REAL?" Just sharpening the knives for the review...