BACK IN THE SADDLE AGAIN

This film is comprised solely of found footage: a homemade 16mm film, seemingly from the 30s, of a family, dressed in Western attire, singing along with a recording of the title song. The family seems to have rehearsed the number, as if they aspire to join the bottom ranks of the vaudeville circuit, despite their lack of talent or professional experience. Most of the kids and adults stand stock still, as if terrified by the camera, except for one little girl, who constantly flits about, as if she is aware that you’re supposed to “do all sorts of stuff” when performing, even if she doesn’t know exactly what stuff to do.

Stark’s one change in the footage is to print in negative, and then again in positive. This abstracts and simplifies the imagery so that you mostly see the movement and aspirations of the singers, rather than the banal details of the setting. It’s like looking at an x-ray, and just seeing the bare bones of a family’s informal attempt to mythologize themselves and The West into an iconic moment of comraderie and free fellowship. Anyone who haunts thrift stores, because of a fascination with other people’s cast-off memorabilia, will enjoy this short film.

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