Critics’ Comments

Jennings’ work is noted in:

Paul Arthur’s A Line of Sight: American Avant Garde Film Since 1965, available from the University of Minnesota Press.

Cinematograph 7: Speaking Directly: Oral Histories of the Moving Image, edited by Federico Windhausen, with an interview conducted by Kathy Geritz, available from the San Francisco Cinemateque.

On Jennings’ films:

“Jennings was a prolific creator of intimate, generous, and visually striking works of observational photography, nearly all silent and many filmed in the course of his NYC commutes as a master plumber whose company, Time Mechanicals, took him to all corners of the photogenic metropolis.

A quintessential New York filmmaker who approached the form of the city symphony with much more of a folk musician’s soul, Jennings – as characterized by friend and curator Mark McElhatten – “perseveres, in a city nearly photographed to death, in bringing to light familiar elements saved from disregard and savored into sharp filmic articulation.”

Jennings’s films are somehow understated and spectacular at the same time, produced as they are from a sensibility marked by great humanity and humility. He dearly loved observing the everyday, ordinary goings-on of his environment, often filmed while traversing the city between plumbing jobs. In much of his filmmaking, the quotidian ephemerality of these usually urban spaces is captured and amplified to celebrate its intrinsic visual poetry through his sensitive and artful eye. His editing, intuitively complementary to his often breathtaking cinematography, was frequently done in-camera, as he trusted his initial subjective reactions and the cumulative procession of experience to communicate something of a vital and evolving shared consciousness.”

-Mark Toscano (in notes for the 2022 show of Jennings’ work at the LA Film Forum)

“Jennings has been one of the un(der)sung heroes of experimental cinema for decades now; his body of work clearly shows him to be equal in stature to acknowledged masters such as Ernie Gehr, Ken Jacobs, Nathaniel Dorsky, and Warren Sonbert.”

Michael Sicinski

“Jennings’ camera feeds the eye and then the spirit, never pausing to ‘inform.’ There is a sense of play here and unselfconscious fun that immediately charms the viewer out of any dialectic frame of mind….”

 – Gail Camhi, The Downtown Review, 1980.

“I cannot feign neutrality when it comes to the films of Jim Jennings. I think they represent one of the most criminally underrated bodies of work in the American avant-garde of the last 25 years. Although Jennings is the quintessential ‘filmmakers’ filmmaker,’ held in the highest esteem by his peers, this is the kind of characterization that typically implies an inaccessible, specialized art practice, something that Jennings’s films are not. They are for everybody with working eyes.”

Michael Sicinski

“New York filmmaker Jim Jennings has been making lyrical, contemplative films since the early 1970s, several of which have screened at Cinematheque. Combining an abstract and richly textural exploration of space (the two- dimensional space of the frame as well as the three-dimensional space seen ‘through’ it) with the poetic evocation of place (in and around New York, Mexico, Rome, San Francisco), Jennings’ films are always delicate and delightful adventures in seeing. In the subtle and suspenseful interplays of light and dark, flatness and depth, the abstract and the manifest, Jennings’ camera transforms the banal into the sublime and us along with it. “

– Kathy Geritz, 43rd San Francisco International Film Festival catalogue

“Jennings (is) the great film-poet of New York street life. Although not all of his films rely on the bustling energy of urban existence – his domestic-portrait masterpiece Close Quarters comes to mind – there is just a particular knack that Jennings has for capturing the shadows and forms, the rhythms and communions of people sharing the spaces of the city. This is as true in his more architectural studies, like Silvercup, as it is in the down-and-dirty, ground level ‘people watching’ films – Miracle on 34th Street or the more recent Public Domain.”

– Michael Sicinski

“Jim Jennings, a younger filmmaker whose gorgeous black-and-white studies revise urban vocabularies pioneered by Brakhage, Menken, Clarke, and others, fashions a luminous ode to the New York subway at night in Silvercup (1998); In Painting the Town, he captures the brightly lit visual circus of Times Square in the manner of Thompson’s NY NY by filming the distorted reflections of building facades on automobile hoods, windows and sidewalk puddles.”

– Paul Arthur, “A Line of Sight: American Avant Garde Film Since 1965,” University of Minnesota Press, 2005.

“ From Long Island City to Chinatown, from the Garment District to Times Square, through Rome-Venice-Haarlem-Bruges-Prague, Jim Jennings is an active participant and observant guest, as itinerant as Baedeker or Weegee but with a finer eye for life in transit and a world waiting to be recomposed.”

– Mark McElhatten, notes for The New York Film Festival’s “Views from the Avant Garde,” 2007

“Jim Jennings is a perfectionist of silent cinema. His work is quiet and powerful, as is his person. He helped establish the Film Department at Bard College and has lived in New York City for over 30 years where he works as a plumber. His stellar camera-based work, primarily studies of street life and architecture, has emerged as a recent festival favorite.”

– Henry Hills, calendar of FAMU events

“A unique kind of lyricism comes through and hovers over the images on the screen like the light that projects and contains them.”

– Ernie Gehr on Jim Jennings’ films, catalogue of the Filmakers’ Co-op

“Jennings is forcing a medium, so often stuck in an exclusive usage as a sign language, to vibrantly acknowledge its more fundamental intuitive and physical aspects.”

– Vincent Grenier,” Notes on Films by Dan Eisenberg, Franklin Miller, Peter Gidal and Jim Jennings”, 10  Years of Living Cinema, 1982, NYC.

“In a career that spans over three decades, Jim Jennings’ lyrical sensibility has thoroughly captured the environs of New York from its bridges, trellises, and elevated subway lines to the closely observed nuances of fellow New Yorkers.”

– Programmer of the Courtisane Festival, Belgium

“Many decisions appear to have been made while filming , in a mood of acute filmic awareness and spontaneity. The effect of the films are physical because of the disorientation of the rhythms, and because the film is intricately choreographed to value every moment of these filmic experiences.”

– Vincent Grenier, 10 Years of Living Cinema

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