If James Cameron and Jeffrey Katzenberg claim that 3-D is the future of American mainstream movies, why can’t the same be true for the avant-past? That’s one way to look at the newest offering by experimental-filmmaking legend Ken Jacobs, who’s spent decades exploring the art and science of looking. Anaglyph Tom revisits Jacobs’s 1969 magnum opus, Tom, Tom, the Piper’s Son, itself a rigorous reedit of a 1905 Edison Studios short. Whereas the Piper’s Son’s intensive dissection of its source material approaches the ultimate molecular-level experience of celluloid, this semiupdate runs the same footage through an array of desktop digital-editing techniques—notably the titular three-dimensional process that brings startling new depth to 104-year-old imagery. Jacobs’s mastery of 3-D is intermittent, but when it works, the new textures bestowed upon Edison’s long-dead cast are moving.
The additional effects of relentless stretching, flipping and strobing range from iMovie goofball to ghostly sublime; the playful and the portentous also alternate in a soundtrack featuring a baby’s disarming gurgles and basketball dribbling looped to jackhammer-annoyance levels. The more aesthetically abrasive segments aren’t for everyone (especially those with epilepsy), but if Anthology lets you take the required 3-D specs home, wear them while googling “anaglyph” and you’ll get another couple hours of eye-popping fun.