Bob Dylan (1962)

“I‘m never going to become rich and famous” – Bob Dylan in 1962.

Dylan was just 20 years old when he appeared on the Folksingers Choice radio program on WBAI FM in New York City. He’d arrived in Manhattan just a few years earlier and was playing in the coffee houses of Greenwich Village, at one in particular he was paid “a dollar plus a cheeseburger.”

During this hour-long interview with Cynthia Gooding, Dylan played some of his own songs (“The Death of Emmett Till”, “Standing on the Highway”) and covers of classics by Howlin’ Wolf, Hank Williams, and Woody Guthrie. We scored this Blank on Blank with Dylan tuning up his guitar and playing his harmonica.

It’s a wonderful snapshot in time, with a young Dylan before he was famous and before he even released his debut album. He’s nervous and funny. He’s just a guy with a guitar with a little mischief underneath.

Listen to the full interview and hear some rarely heard songs on our website: http://blankonblank.org/bob-dylan/

EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: David Gerlach. ANIMATOR: Patrick Smith. PRODUCER: Amy Drozdowska. COLORIST: Jennifer Yoo. SOUND DESIGN: Mixology Post / Doug Moss. PHOTOS: New York Public Library, National Archives, Unsplash, Bigstock, and Wikimedia Commons.

Ralph Bakshi (1972)

Fritz speaks the truth.

Fritz the Cat is a 1972 American adult animated black comedy film written and directed by Ralph Bakshi in his directorial debut. Based on the comic strip by Robert Crumb and starring Skip Hinnant, the film focuses on Fritz, a glib, womanizing, and fraudulent cat in an anthropomorphic animal version of New York City during the mid-to-late 1960s. Fritz decides on a whim to drop out of college, interacts with inner city African American crows, unintentionally starts a race riot, and becomes a leftist revolutionary. The film is a satire focusing on American college life of the era, race relations, the free love movement and serves as a criticism of the countercultural political revolution and dishonest political activists.

The film had a troubled production history, as Crumb, who is politically left-wing, had disagreements with the filmmakers over the film’s political content, which he saw as being critical of the political left. Produced on a budget of $700,000, the film was intended by Bakshi to broaden the animation market. At that time period, animation was seen predominantly as a children’s medium. Bakshi envisioned animation as being a medium that could tell more dramatic or satirical storylines with larger scopes, dealing with more mature and diverse themes that would resonate with adults. Bakshi also wanted to establish an independent alternative to the films produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios, which dominated the animation market due to a lack of independent competition.

The intention of featuring profanity, sex, and drug use provoked criticism from more conservative members of the animation industry, who accused Bakshi of attempting to produce a pornographic animated film, as the concept of adult animation was not widely understood at the time. The Motion Picture Association of America gave the film an X rating, making it the first American animated film to receive the rating, which was then predominantly associated with more arthouse films. The film was highly successful and also earned significant critical acclaim for its satire, social commentary, and animation innovations. The film’s use of satire and mature themes is seen as paving the way for future animated works for adults, including The Simpsons, South Park and Family Guy. A sequel, The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat (1974), was produced without Crumb’s or Bakshi’s involvement.

Bruce Bickford and Frank Zappa (1979)

Baby Snakes is a film which includes footage from Frank Zappa’s 1977 Halloween concert at New York City’s Palladium Theater, backstage antics from the crew, and stop-motion claymation from award-winning animator Bruce Bickford.

Jordana Moore Saggese & HĂ©loĂŻse Dorsan Rachet (2019)

Learn about the life of American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, from his start as part of graffiti duo SAMO to his rise as an internationally renowned painter.

Like Beat writers who composed their work by shredding and reassembling scraps of writing, artist Jean-Michel Basquiat used similar techniques to remix his materials. Pulling in splintered anatomy, reimagined historical scenes and skulls, he repurposed present day experiences and art history into an inventive visual language. Jordana Moore Saggese explores the chaotic and prolific art of Basquiat.

SAMO was a graffiti tag which started as an inside joke when Jean-Michel Basquiat and a few of his friends were still teenagers. They tagged funny, thought-provoking lines all over New York City from 1977 to 1980. It accompanied short phrases, in turns poetic and sarcastic, mainly painted on the streets of downtown Manhattan.

Ken Jacobs (1960)

A film in four parts. In In the Room, a man and a woman in outlandish garb are sitting in a claw-foot bathtub smoking, while the man abuses a doll in various ways. In They Stopped to Think, the filmmaker focuses on a woman trying to position a stool upon which to sit next to a wall. The filmmaker talks in voice-over about filming the scene, and his current relationship with the people shown in the film. The scene shifts to a pier where a man and woman are filmed, playing to the camera. In It Began to Drizzle, a man and woman are lounging in a street-side patio. The scene then shifts to a man and some children doing chalk drawings on the sidewalk, and how others respond to what they are doing. In The Spirit of Listlessness, a man lounging on an urban rooftop is playing with balloons while he plays to the camera.

Outrageous yet tender, the film begins with the skip of a cracked 78 rpm record and a handmade title festooned with streamers and lettered in dripping red. In vignettes continuing in this vein, characters occasionally stumble on glimmers of beauty in their bleak existence: a view from the roof and kids drawing on the sidewalk. The scenes are unsettling in their immediacy. Jacobs embraces the New York City streets as his stage and improvises props and costumes from castoffs. The characters, including Jack Smith and Jerry Sims, are completely at ease with the camera. They cavort, they pose, they affront, and they demand our attention. Like it or not, we are made part of the scene.

For many years Jacobs played 78s at screenings, again transforming poverty into a live-performance asset. A grant from Jerome Hill facilitated by Jonas Mekas enabled Jacobs to add voice-over to the middle section and create a sound print. By this time, his relationship with Smith had soured, and he had lost touch with most of those pictured. Jacob’s narration, presented self-consciously as anything to distract you from talking to each other, acts as a remembrance of things past. The closing vignette, shot on a New York rooftop on a crystalline day, shows Smith clowning with a balloon to the tune of Happy Bird. In Little Stabs at Happiness, moments in the sun do not last.

Ken Jacobs is an experimental filmmaker, who, along with Stan Brakhage, Jonas Mekas, Maya Deren and others, helped spearhead the American avant-garde film movement. His impressive filmography spans more than 60 years and 45 films, utilizing just about every experimental technique imaginable. In the ’60s, he helped redefine the notion of domestic (home) movies, and along with it, domestic space—pioneering work that expanded the parameters of art cinema, and also, coincidentally, the gender expectations of male artists. Jacobs has also experimented with found footage, creating such memorable works as Star Spangled to Death, a nearly seven-hour epic charting an alternative U.S. history. Most recently, he has been reformatting, reworking, and altering silent films to give illusions of depth, creating experimental, heavily stroboscopic abstract cinema, and 3D. At every stage of his career, Jacobs has sought to push the technology as far as it can go and to challenge his audiences to think about politics, gender, class, race, documentary, and movies differently. This series provides a rare opportunity to see the work of one of the greatest living American filmmakers.

Ralph Bakshi (1972)

Fritz the Cat is a 1972 American adult animated comedy film written and directed by Ralph Bakshi, based on the comic strip by Robert Crumb and starring Skip Hinnant. The film focuses on Fritz (Hinnant), a glib, womanizing and fraudulent cat in an anthropomorphic animal version of New York City during the mid-1960s. Fritz decides on a whim to drop out of college, interacts with inner city African American crows, unintentionally starts a race riot, and becomes a leftist revolutionary. The film is a satire focusing on American college life of the era, race relations, the free love movement and serves as a criticism of political revolution and dishonest political activists.