Now Playing! Remembering Anarchic Artists in 'Two Wrenching Departures'

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Still from 'The Wrenching Departures,' 1989. (Courtesy of SF Cinematheque)

The octogenarian New York filmmaker Ken Jacobs is a genuine American treasure -- an obsessive and impassioned chronicler of both his perpetually changing city and the free-associative, free-wheeling characters who embody our nation’s basic and endangered principles of expression and experimentation. In 1989, after the deaths a week apart of his close friends and artistic collaborators Bob Fleischner (who founded the Collective for Living Cinema) and Jack Smith (Flaming Creatures), Jacobs performed a live, improvised, dual projector tribute that is preserved today only in the memories of those lucky enough to see it.

Still from 'The Wrenching Departures,' 1989.
Still from 'The Wrenching Departures,' 1989. (Courtesy of SF Cinematheque)

Over the years, Jacobs sifted through the trove of moving images he made with and under the influence of his mentors in the late 1950s and early ‘60s, culling and editing sequences. His labors culminated in 2006 in Two Wrenching Departures, a 90-minute film that captures Fleischner and Smith’s anarchic, gender-bending personalities along with the nascent underground rebellion sparked by the repression of the Eisenhower-Nixon years. The S.F. Cinematheque’s revival of Two Wrenching Departures this Friday, Jan. 27 at Yerba Buena Center For the Arts is a treat, above all, for fans of Jack Smith, the radical queer artist who influenced San Francisco’s own Cockettes and, directly or by extension, everyone from Warhol to Jagger to Bowie.