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Filmmaker Jay Rosenblatt on His Role as Provocateur, Entertainer, Healer
San Francisco-based filmmaker and artist Jay Rosenblatt works with archival footage, original images, voiceovers, and ominous classical pieces by the likes of Arvo Part to create new stories that explore dark, ironic themes ranging from the personal habits of dictators, as in 1998â€™s â€śHuman Remains,â€ť to the heartrendingly confessional meditation on grief, 2005â€™s â€śPhantom Limb.â€ť Honored this year with the Camerimage award for achievement in documentary, the former psychologist returns to Bydgoszcz, Poland to screen a new film, â€śWhen You Awake,â€ť and to speak about his work.
SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE
DVD review: The Films of Jay Rosenblatt, volume 2
Make no mistake, Jay Rosenblatt is a great artist. He makes short films unlike anything you've ever seen, some as short as a minute, some as long as a half hour. Most of his films - not all - involve the use of found footage. Rosenblatt, who is program director for the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, will take snippets from instructional, industrial and education films from the middle of the 20th century and put them together with music and narration to achieve profound emotional effects. Those effects are also hard to describe. To see a Jay Rosenblatt movie is to come into contact with something deep and true in the human experience, a kind of sadness that's beyond tears.
NEW YORK TIMES
By Mike Hale
Jay Rosenblatt makes friendly art films. Their subject matter may be grim - suicide, grief, violence, murderous dictators - but his constructions of found footage and appropriated narration are inviting and accessible. Hence they turn up in mainstream environments like the Sundance Film Festival, Film Forum and Cinemax (where they're called shorts or documentaries, "art" and "experimental" being words a programmer would rather not hear).
This appeal stems partly from their formal beauty. Mr. Rosenblatt splices together bits of all kinds of footage - industrial and educational films, news, home movies - as seamlessly as any crack Hollywood editor. The resulting films feel stately and deliberate despite their hundreds of cuts.
By Peter Bowen
Since his 1990 breakthrough Short of Breath, San Francisco-based filmmaker Jay Rosenblatt has honed a particular film aesthetic, a form more related to poetry and essays than traditional film narrative. Combining found footage, poignant spoken narratives and targeted scores, Rosenblatt explores large social, even philosophical, issues with poetic precision. Images and spoken word do not so much illustrate as resonate against each other, suggesting a range of meanings and further associations, but never definitely naming one. The meticulousness by which he creates these short films lead Atom Egoyan to call him "an exquisite artist who makes beautifully crafted miniatures."
SENSES OF CINEMA
By Brian K. Bergen-Aurand
By Cathleen Rountree
Afterwards, I discovered that the film was Phantom Limb (2005), directed by Jay Rosenblatt. This disturbing short crossed the border of the personal into the frontier of the collective--a lesson in life's impermanence through the pain of loss.
SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE
By Mick LaSalle
NEW YORK TIMES
'Times When Less Is More Profound'
A one-week retrospective of Mr. Rosenblatt's classic works as well as his new ones, starting on Wednesday at Film Forum, will include ''Human Remains,'' ''The Smell of Burning Ants'' and ''King of the Jews.'' While hardly a household name, he has long been admired on the film-festival circuit and by other filmmakers. The Canadian director Atom Egoyan said, ''He's an exquisite artist who makes beautifully crafted miniatures.'' Mr. Egoyan, himself well known for such features as ''The Sweet Hereafter,'' particularly values the form Mr. Rosenblatt has chosen: ''Jay Rosenblatt isn't making 'calling card movies.' In the current climate of everyone wanting to make an indie feature, he's devoted himself to the very endangered form of the short film. He has stayed pure.''
What is most striking about his masterpiece, ''Human Remains,'' is his audacity in choosing to address atrocity entirely by omission. The audience journeys through archival film of Hitler, Mao, Stalin, Franco and Mussolini, guided only by a soundtrack of quotations and biographical data about their personal habits, all synthesized into an amusing but unlikely confessional.
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