Using found footage from the Prelinger Archive with virtually no connecting shots other than a pen writing titles on paper, “A Portrait of America As a Young Empire (In Its Own Words)” glibly comments on contemporary American politics by stringing together a quintet of advertising, industrial and propaganda films made between the ’40s and’60s As might be expected, their heavyhanded anti-Japanese and anti-communist ideology is ladled out with a bucket. Though not without some good moments, this facile exercise in irony would have needed far more editing to work as biting social commentary for hip contemporary audiences.
Instead, the five artefacts, including the animation short “Destination Earth,” appear only slightly re-edited, if at all, by director Francois Bucher, a Colombian-born German resident. One can appreciate the effect this silly stuff might have on a non-American. Those who vaguely remember seeing these films back in school can rest assured they have not gotten any better over time; in fact, pic’s chief problem is the utter boredom of its source material.