Jay Rosenblatt Q & A
Jay Rosenblatt at Wex April 29 & 30
by Dave Filipi
San Francisco-based filmmaker Jay Rosenblatt has carved out a unique aesthetic during a career spanning more than two decades. He is perhaps most associated with a series of deeply personal films that draw on found footageâ€”newsreels, industrial films, home moviesâ€”and defy categorization by blending essay, documentary, and poetic forms. Some of his best-know films include Human Remains (1998), King of the Jews (2000), and his most recent The Darkness of the Day (2009). Rosenblatt's work has been the subject of recent retrospectives at such venues as the Museum of Modern Art and the Walker Art Center. His films screen regularly on the Sundance Channel, IFC, and HBO, as well as at festivals around the world.
We posed three questions to Jay to help familiarize the Wex audience with his work.
1. (DF) Many of your films rely heavily on recontextualizing found footage. What lead you to this practice?
(JR) It was circuitous. I began by making narrative films with actors and found
the whole process to be way too stressful since I didn't have the budget to
pay people. Also I realized that the editing process was my favorite aspect
of filmmaking. Add to that, the local school districts were throwing out all
their 16mm prints and SF State just bought an optical printer. So the
combination of all these forces/circumstances led me to begin playing around
with these educational films and re-photographing and manipulating shots
with the optical printer.
2. To help situate your body of work, could you tell us what films or
filmmakers have had an influence on you?
I would say that Chris Marker had the biggest influence on my method of working in that after I saw Sans Soleil, I imagined that he collected images
and figured out the film in the editing process. I also was drawn to the
essay style he employs. On a completely different level, I think I am
influenced by classical Hollywood cinema although it might be difficult to
discern that from viewing my work.
3. Your most recent film, The Darkness of the Day, is a meditation on the
profound and unique feelings of loss and grief that surround suicide. Can you
tell us about the inspiration for this film?
This is in the text at the beginning of my film. I was seeing a massage
therapist for an injury from an accident. I saw her weekly for over a year.
She was a very upbeat and positive person. A day after one of my massages,
she took her own life. This was a great shock and I would have never
imagined her doing this. I decided to explore suicide in this collage essay
form that I work in.