PRINT September 1971

“Tom, Tom, the Piper’s Son”

KEN JACOBS’ FILM, Tom, Tom, the Piper’s Son, is, with Vertov’s Man with a Movie Camera, one of the two great works of a reflexive cinema whose primary subject is an esthetic definition of the nature of the medium. Jacobs himself has called it "a didactic film.”1 It deals with several major critical areas: with representation, narrative and abstraction, with the illusions involved in the film-viewing experience, with the possible ways of handling space and time, with structure and with perception. It is, as well, a work of radical transformation; a primitive work from the earliest period of film history is transformed into a highly innovative work, modernist in character, constantly pleasurable to the eye and, at the same time, a sophisticated exercise in film and art criticism.

Jacobs, then, has taken an early American film called Tom, Tom, the Piper’s Son, a rendering of the nursery rhyme,

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