Thom Andersen’s Juke

Thom Andersen, Juke: Passages from the Films of Spencer Williams, 2015, digital video, black-and-white, sound, 30 minutes. Frame from Spencer Williams’s Juke Joint, 1947.

SOMETIME IN THE MID-1930S, Joseph Cornell acquired a 16-mm print of the 1931 Universal adventure film East of Borneo, which he distilled and reshuffled, transmuting back-lot make-believe into a nineteen-minute documentary portrait of its star and namesake, Rose Hobart (1936). Thom Andersen’s Juke: Passages from the Films of Spencer Williams is a related enterprise.

A thirty-minute montage of material from the oeuvre of the African American filmmaker and actor Spencer Williams (1893–1969)—commissioned by New York’s Museum of Modern Art as part of the film sidebar to “One Way Ticket,” an exhibition contextualizing Jacob Lawrence’s “Migration” series (on view through September 7)—Juke, like Rose Hobart, is consecrated to its enigmatic subject: a veteran of Broadway and Hollywood who wrote, directed, and appeared in the most resilient and popular of “race” films, The Blood

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