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Director: Maarten Koopman
Release Date: 2008
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Theatre Patouffe © Musch & Tinbergen‘Theatre Patouffe’ features a performance of lifeless objects, mostly of things on wheels, but also of some furniture performing acrobatics, and of three flying machines.

The objects and theater settings are beautifully made, and evoke a very surreal atmosphere, reminiscent of Jan Švankmajer’s films. Moreover, the film is full of clever ideas, and at one point one of the contraption even shows films of other contraptions performing, creating quite a Droste effect.

Unfortunately, the film suffers from the lack of a story arc. This renders the short unsatisfying, despite the intriguing images, and unique atmosphere

‘Theatre Patouffe’ is available on the DVD ‘Animazing! – Mindblowing Animation Films Supportes by the Netherlands Film Fund 1998-2008’

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Directors: Paul Driessen & Kaj Driessen
Release Date: 2008
Rating: ★★★★½
Review:

The 7 Brothers © Paul DriessenWith ‘The 7 Brothers’ Dutch director Paul Driessen elaborates on the fairy tale ideas he had explored in ‘3 Misses’ (1988).

‘The 7 Brothers’ tells the tale of no less than seven old writers, and their stories, all Driessen’s own idiosyncratic variations on classic fairy tales, featuring a mixture of Cinderella, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, The Wolf and the Seven Young Goats, Snow White, Puss in Boots and Hansel and Gretel. There are seven short gags, all rather cruel takes on the familiar tales.

The film is unique within Driessen’s oeuvre, for its use of live action: the seven gag segments are bridged by shots of the old men wandering on a cobbled street at night. These surreal live action images were directed by his son, Kaj Driessen. The result is a beautiful and funny, if rather unassuming film.

Watch ‘The 7 Brothers’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘The 7 Brothers’ is available on the DVD ‘Animazing! – Mindblowing Animation Films Supportes by the Netherlands Film Fund 1998-2008’

Director: Arjan Wilschut
Release Date: 2006
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Hard Boiled Chicken © il Luster‘Hard Boiled Chicken’ is a short gag short about a rooster and a chicken who try to save their egg from the farmer.

The film is shot in sepia tones, and uses simple comic designs on the chickens, while the cat and the farmer are a little more elaborate in design. The short partly evokes the atmosphere of a film noir detective, but this idea is not worked out well (for example, the short also features a totally unrelated The Matrix-inspired moment), and in the end the short falls short in its inconsistency. Yet, ‘Hard Boiled Chicken’ is a small, gentle film, and excellent for children.

Watch ‘Hard Boiled Chicken’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Hard Boiled Chicken’ is available as a bonus on the DVD ‘Animazing! – Mindblowing Animation Films Supportes by the Netherlands Film Fund 1998-2008’ and on the DVD ‘Independent Animation from The Netherlands Volume 2’

Director: Henk Kabos
Release Date: 1943
Rating: ★★
Review:

Das musikalische Auto © Toonder studio's‘Das musikalische Auto’ is a Toonder studio film commissioned by Nazi Germany.

It’s a strange little tale of a man who ‘improves’ an old car into a musical instrument. He tours around the countryside, until his car crashes against a tree.

The soundtrack of this film has been lost, so we don’t know how the musical car sounds, but the film feels uninspired: the story lacks any logic, and the animation is primitive and raw. It contains some elements both 1930s Fleischer and Disney, without reaching either peaks.

In his autobiography Marten Toonder states that the idea of this cartoon had its origins in the German UFA studio, who wanted a story on a tumble toy. Toonder soon gave the tumble toy arms and legs, but he and his studio only halfheartedly worked on this ill-conceived idea, and it shows. Nevertheless, some of the designs are quite charming: the backgrounds have an unmistakable Toonder-touch, and the animals in the cartoon do look good.

‘Das musikalische Auto’ is available on the DVD inside the Dutch book ‘De Toonder Animatiefilms’

Director: Joop Geesink?
Release Date: 1943
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Phi-garo in het woud © Toonder Studio'sSerenata nocturna‘, Marten Toonder’s and Joop Geesink’s first stop motion film, did raise interest of Philips, and the Dutch electronics company commissioned another short to advertise the Philishave, an electronic razor. This resulted in ‘Phi-garo in het woud’.

in ‘Phi-garo in het woud’ a bearded gnome tries to impress a female elf, but she rejects him. The gnome gets a shave at the local barber, but the elf still rejects him. Then a witch shows him the Philips Philishave, which does the trick.

‘Phi-Garo in het woud’ is less entertaining than ‘Serenata nocturna’, its story less logical, and its designs more generic than in the earlier cartoon. The animation, however, is a little more assured. More commissions were now to follow.

Watch ‘Phi-garo in het woud’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Phi-garo in het woud’ is available on the DVD inside the Dutch book ‘De Toonder Animatiefilms’

Director: Joop Geesink
Production Date: September 1942
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Serenata nocturna © Toonder studio's‘Serenata nocturna’ is the first collaboration between two Dutch animation film pioneers, Marten Toonder and Joop Geesink.

The collaboration results in a charming little advertising film about a Mexican who tries to serenade his love, to no avail. He tries several instruments, without success. But then he magically produces a Philips Radio, and finally his love is impressed.

The puppet animation in this short is very reminiscent of that of George Pal, the Hungarian animator, who had an important puppet film studio in Eindhoven in the late 1930s, and who had made several films for Dutch electronics company Philips himself. Pal, however, had exchanged The Netherlands for the United Kingdom, and finally emigrated to the United States in December 1939, leaving The Netherlands without any animation studio of importance. Now, Toonder and Geesink tried to fill this gap. Perhaps, Philips would be interested to commission films from them.

However, the inexperience of both animators shows: the animation still looks primitive, with a lot of excessive movement. The short’s story, however, is funny and still entertaining today. Indeed, Philips saw potential, and would become an important commissioner to both film makers.

Toonder would soon abandon stop motion, but Geesink would continue in the field, creating one of the most successful stop motion animation studios of the post-war era.

Watch ‘Serenata nocturna’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Serenata nocturna’ is available on the DVD inside the Dutch book ‘De Toonder Animatiefilms’

Director: Harold Mack
Release Date: August 1, 1952
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

De gouden vis © Toonder Studio'sBy 1952 the Dutch Toonder studios had been producing animation films for ten years, and now they were ready to produce a ‘free film’, not commissioned, but out of their own ideas.

The first of these free films was ‘De gouden vis’ (The Golden Fish). It was Marten Toonder’s old wish to produce a free film, and the result is clearly a work of love. ‘De gouden vis’ is an astonishing achievement for the Dutch studio: all elements of animation film have matured in this film: its storytelling is original, its designs are gorgeous, the animation is excellent, the effects are convincing and its atmosphere is unique. The result is arguably one of the most beautiful films ever made in The Netherlands.

Based on a story by Marten Toonder’s brother, Jan Gerhard Toonder, the film tells about the Chinese prince Li Pai, who repeatedly asks an old wise fish how to live. The fish tells the prince that his eyes know the answer, but Li Pai misinterprets what he sees, and only in old age he discovers the truth…

The film has a genuinely Chinese atmosphere, thanks to designs by Pamela & Harold Mack and backgrounds by Cees van de Weert and Ling Nan Lung. The film hasn’t aged a bit, except for Nell Knoop’s Dutch narration, which has an unmistakable 1950s diction.

Unfortunately, ‘De gouden vis’, in spite of praise on several film festivals around the world, only returned a mere thousand guilders, while its production had costed about 40,000 guilders. So, during the rest of its existence, the Toonder studios produced only a handful of other ‘free films’, most notably ‘Moonglow’ (1955).

‘De gouden vis’ is available on the DVD inside the Dutch book ‘De Toonder Animatiefilms’

Director: Paul Driessen
Release Date: 1988
Rating: ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

De schrijver en de dood © Paul DriessenIn an old castle a medieval writer is writing such lively stories, it  attracts Death’s attention.

The writer tells a story about a peddler and his son, who has a touch of magic. All goes well, until Death comes in, and messes with the writer’s stories to ruin them and fill them with death and misery. Nevertheless, he fails to kill the son, who’s the writer’s main protagonist. With his magical powers the young boy escapes certain death several times. However, when in the end, the writer turns out to be same man as the little boy in his stories, Death has the last laugh.

‘De schrijver en de dood’ is one of Paul Driessen’s darkest and gloomiest films. His typical black humor is not absent, and is best visible in the little snapshots, which disrupt the story’s continuity for small morbid gags. But more than in any other of his films death is more disturbing than funny, and the sadness and misery are heartfelt. At the same time, it’s also one of Driessen’s most poetical films. The images are rich and full of fantasy, and in his own way Driessen creates a convincing medieval world to marvel at.

Watch ‘De schrijver en de dood’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘De schrijver en de dood’ is available on the DVD ‘The Dutch Films of Paul Driessen’

Director: Paul Driessen
Release Date: 1985
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Spiegeleiland © Paul Driessen‘Spiegeleiland’ is a short and stylized animation film, which uses one scene and one perspective only.

We watch a castaway on an island and his reflection. The castaway is visited by a female companion and rescued by a ship. Or is he? The reflection tells another tale…

This simple story is told without dialogue and with the greatest economy. Like ‘Ei om zeep’ (The Killing of an Egg’) and ‘Het treinhuisje’ (Home on the Rails) we watch a single tableau. In ‘Spiegeleiland’ Driessen takes this format even further, limiting his action to a circle with only a tiny island within.

The result is without doubt one of Driessen’s strongest and most poetic films. Driessen would reuse this method of parallel depiction of reality and fantasy to a great effect in the tragic ‘The Boy Who Saw the Iceberg’ from 2000.

Watch ‘Spiegeleiland’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Spiegeleiland’ is available on the DVD ‘The Dutch Films of Paul Driessen’

Director: Paul Driessen
Release Date: 1982
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Oh What A Knight © Paul Driessen‘Oh What a Knight’ is a short and funny gag film in which a knight rescues a princess from a dragon, a cyclope, a snake and a villain, only to watch her fall in love with his empty shiny armor.

Driessen’s unique animation style is most present in this cartoon. For example, the knight has an odd way of falling to pieces and reassembling himself. ‘Oh What a Knight’ is one of Driessen’s funniest films. In fact it would not be surpassed until his ‘3 Misses’ from 1998.

Watch ‘Oh What a Knight’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Oh What a Knight’ is avaiable on the DVD ‘The Dutch Films of Paul Driessen’

Director: Paul Driessen
Release Date: 1981
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Het treinhuisje (Home on the Rails) © Paul Driessen‘Het treinhuisje’ is one of Paul Driessen’s most beautiful films.

This short builds on the surreal concept of a home built right on a railway track. The daily life of the couple living in the house is dominated by a train passing right through their home at certain times.

With simple and direct storytelling Driessen sets the drama, in which this very train ruins the life of the couple. All the time we stick inside the couple’s home. Only when the man tells of his misfortunes, we shortly cut to the outside world. Ironically, it’s the railway itself that ruins the couple’s life.

The story is told without dialogue, and supported by beautiful country music. The emotions of the couple are depicted well, and are very subtle. However, the film also shows Driessen’s typical animation style at its most radical: the film’s surrealism is enhanced by strange disappearances of the characters when they cross the room and by a ghostly avant-image of the train before it really enters the house.

The film also shares the trademark morbid humor with other Driessen films, especially in the cuckoo clock and in the persistent fly bugging the characters throughout the picture. Nevertheless, the melancholy atmosphere dominates, and its the film’s drama that impresses the viewer time and time again.

Watch ‘Het treinhuisje’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Het treinhuisje’ is available on the DVD ‘The Dutch Films of Paul Driessen’

Director: Paul Driessen
Release Date: 1980
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Ter land, ter zee en in de lucht © Paul DriessenIn this film Paul Driessen experiments with the split screen for the first time.

Here we see three narrow frames: the left frame (Land) depicting a sleeping man, the middle one (Air) a bird, and the right one (Sea) a couple on a boat on the ocean. The story involves several themes explored in all three frames, which at times interact but only come together in the end

Like many of Paul Driessen’s shorts ‘Te land ter zee en in de lucht’ involves morbid humor, including a running gag of an ark sinking several times. The film uses no dialogue and no music, only sound effects with very effective results.

Driessen would take the split screen technique to the max in ‘The End of the World in Four Seasons’ (1995), but the genius of ‘Te land, ter zee en in de lucht’ would only be topped by his melancholy film ‘The Boy Who Saw the Iceberg’ from 2000.

Watch ‘Te land, ter zee en in de lucht’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Te land, ter zee en in de lucht’ is available on the DVD ‘The Dutch Films of Paul Driessen’

Director: Paul Driessen
Release Date: 1977
Rating: ★★★★½
Review:

Ei om zeep © Paul DriessenA man is going to eat an egg, when he suddenly hears a voice from within. He destroys the egg, killing the unseen victim. However his cruel behavior is soon punished in an echo of events.

‘The Killing of an Egg’ is a short cartoon with a very limited setting. The whole action takes place within a single square frame and its perspective is changed only once. In this claustrophobic surrounding the story unfolds its own inner logic. In this limited time-space Paul Driessen shows his mastery of story telling.

This classic cartoon is a prime example of Paul Driessen’s mature style. It’s the first film in which he plays with framing the action (soon followed by split screens, eventually leading to the extreme example of ‘The End of the World in Four Seasons’ from 1995). The film shows Driessen’s typical way of telling a short story based on a simple, yet clever idea which makes the cartoon tick like an inevitable fate. Later examples of this style are ‘Home on the Rails‘ (1981) and ‘Sunny Side Up‘ (1985). And finally, this film is typical of Driessen’s dark humor, which always has a disturbing edge to it. We may feel as powerful as this man, but we, too, will be crushed in the end…

Watch ‘Ei om zeep’ yourself and tell me what you think:

 

‘Ei om zeep’ is available on the DVD ‘The Dutch Films of Paul Driessen’

Director: Paul Driessen
Release Date: 1977
Rating: ★★★
Review:

David © Paul Driessen

After working in Canada for the NFB for five years, Driessen experienced a major personal setback, when his marriage failed, and his ex left for The Netherlands with their two children. Driessen soon missed his son and daughter and returned to his native country himself.

In The Netherlands he rented a small attic in The Hague to work and live in. Here he made ‘David’, which he dedicated to his children Anouk and Kaj.

David is the world’s tiniest cartoon star. He’s so small, even the little gnomes can’t see him. During most of the cartoon his presence is only known by his footsteps and his voice. In fact, David is probably the first cartoon star to remain invisible throughout the picture. Nevertheless, Driessen manages to keep the film entertaining, even though most of the time we look at an empty screen.

This film is clearly meant for children and unfortunately, it is hampered by its slowness and large amount of dialogue of David himself (in the Dutch version provided by actor Aart Staartjes). Much of the fun is in David trying to make himself known. Despite its joyful spirit, the film contains a morbid ending, when David, having survived a giant and a predatory bird, is eventually squashed by an unknowing pedestrian…

‘David’ was Driessen’s sixth film, and his idiosyncratic style has matured immensely since his first film, ‘The Story of Little John Bailey‘ (1970). With his next film ‘Killing of an Egg‘ he would animate his first masterpiece.

Watch ‘David’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘David’ is available on the DVD  ‘The Dutch Films of Paul Driessen’

Director: Paul Driessen
Release Date: 1970
Rating: ★★½
Review:

Het verhaal van kleine Yoghurt © Paul DriessenPaul Driessen’s very first film is a charming little short for children.

Made largely in Spain with help of small subsidy from the Dutch Ministry of Culture, the film tells about a small boy who accidentally sets a forest on fire, but repays his deed by extinguishing another one with help of an elephant with two trunks.

The simple story is hampered by the childish voice over (the English version is much more enjoyable than the original in that respect), and the film certainly doesn’t belong to Driessen’s best works, but its imaginative colors and weird perspectives are still thrilling. It already shows the film maker’s very distinctive animation style, which he would expand and improve over the years, creating such masterpieces as ‘On Land, at Sea and in the Air‘ (1980) and ‘The Writer‘ (1988).

Watch ‘Het verhaal van Kleine Yoghurt’ yourself and tell me what you think:

http://v.youku.com/v_show/id_XNzQ1MTE2NTI=.html

‘Het verhaal van Kleine Yoghurt’ is available on the DVD ‘The Dutch Films of Paul Driessen’

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