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Director: Jiří Trnka
Release Date: 1954
Rating: ★★★
Review:

A Drop Too Much © Jiri TrnkaA young man on a motorcycle is on his way to his girl.

Along the way he stops at a bar, where a wedding is taking place. There he’s offered a drink, which he reluctantly accepts. However, one leads to another and he is quite intoxicated when leaving the bar. Driving at night he tries to speed against a car, a train and even a plane, but he finally crashes, never to see his girl.

This educational film warns us not to combine drinking with driving. In this respect the film is very dull and predictable, but Trnka’s illusion of speed and drunkenness is astonishing.

Watch ‘A Drop Too Much’ yourself and tell me what you think:

http://en.channel.pandora.tv/channel/video.ptv?ch_userid=noisypig&prgid=46485008&ref=rss

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Director: Jiří Trnka
Release Date: 1951
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

The Merry Circus © Jiri Trnka‘The Merry Circus’, is puppet-animator Trnka’s try at cut-out animation.

The film shows that Trnka was a master in this technique as well: the animation is superb: the sense of weight, muscular tensions and balance is nothing less than stunning. Moreover, the cut-outs seem to float in mid-air, casting wonderful shadows on the background.

Unfortunately, the film’s subject is not that interesting. We watch circus artists perform, among them two sea lions juggling, a girl on a horse, three trapeze acrobats and an acrobat bear balancing on a chair on a bottle on a glass. Even though some of the shown tricks are quite improbable, the only truly surrealistic act is the fish on the slack-rope.

Despite the lack of story, the film is an enjoyable watch: its visual design is beautiful and poetic, its animation fluent and convincing, and its circus atmosphere well-captured. ‘The Merry Circus’ may not be Trnka’s best film, but it’s only the high quality of some of his other films that makes this one second-rate.

Watch ‘The Merry Circus’ yourself and tell me what you think:

http://veehd.com/video/4587370_Jiri-Trnka-The-Merry-Circus-Vesely-Cirkus-1951

Director: Jiří Trnka
Release Date: 1949
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Román s basou (Story of the Bass Cello) © Jiri Trnka‘Story of the Bass Cello’ is a re-telling of a classic story by Anton Chekhov.

The film tells about a bass player and a girl who both take a swim, but whose clothes are stolen. The bass player invites the lady to take place in his bass case, but when he’s after the possible thief, the case is picked up by his fellow instrumentalists and brought to the palace, where an astonished crowd discovers the naked lady inside.

‘Story of the Bass Cello’ is a mildly amusing and sweet film. It contains nice silent comedy. The short is a little bit slow, however, and not as good as Trnka’s more outrageous ‘The Song of the Prairie‘ from the same year.

Watch ‘Story of the Bass Cello’ yourself and tell me what you think:

http://veehd.com/video/4587175_Jiri-Trnka-Roman-s-Basou-Story-Of-The-Bass-Cello-1949

Director: Jiří Trnka
Release Date: 1949
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

The Song of the Prairie © Jiri TrnkaWith ‘The Song of the prairie’ Trnka’s both made a parody of and a homage to the classic Western.

The film uses all the cliches of the genre: a stagecoach, masked bandits, a damsel in distress, a hero with a white hat, a villain fancying the girl, and a climax on a cliff.

Trnka’s animation has much improved since ‘The Emperor’s Nightingale‘: the cinematography is excellent, and particularly the illusion of speed is astonishing. The film is wonderfully tongue-in-cheek and full of brilliant silent comedy, showing Trnka’s then unsurpassed mastery in stop-motion. ‘The Song of the Prairie’ is one of Trnka’s most enjoyable films, and deserves a more classic status.

Watch ‘The Song of the Prairie’ yourself and tell me what you think:

http://www.totalshortfilms.com/ver/pelicula/122

Director: Jiří Trnka
Release Date: April 15, 1949
Rating: ★★★
Review:

The Emperor's Nightingale © Jiri Trnka‘The Emperor’s Nightingale’ is Jiří Trnka’s second feature film (he made no less than six in total).

It tells the familiar story by Hans Christian Andersen from an original perspective: he frames the fairy tale by a live-action story about a lonely rich boy, who lives in a restricted environment. When the boy goes to bed, he dreams the fairy-tale, which stars some of his toys. Thus, after more than seven minutes, the animation kicks in.

In the boy’s dream, the Chinese emperor is a lonely little rich boy, restricted by rules, too, and the whole film seems a plea for freedom and against rules and restrictions, quite some message in communist Czechoslovakia. This theme is enhanced by the English narration, wonderfully voiced by Boris Karloff, which is a welcome addition to Trnka’s silent comedy. The whole film breathes a kind of surrealistic atmosphere and Trnka’s use of camera angles is astonishing, as is his sometimes very avant-garde montage.

Nevertheless, the pacing of the film is slow, its humor sparse and only mildly amusing, and the puppet animation still too stiff to allow elaborate character animation. Therefore, the film hasn’t aged very well, and although a tour-de- force, ‘The Emperor’s Nightingale’ falls short as a timeless masterpiece.

Watch ‘The Emperor’s Nightingale’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Jiří Trnka
Release Date: 1965
Rating: ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

The Hand © Jiri TrnkaIn a self-contained world, seemingly outside space and time, an harlequin lives happily in his home.

The harlequin is an artist, a ceramist and a sculptor, making pots for his beloved plant. Unfortunately, his domestic peace is disturbed by a giant gloved hand, which orders him to sculpt a statue of a hand. As the harlequin keeps refusing, the hand uses praise, money, indoctrination, brutal force and erotics to persuade the artist to do what he’s ordered.

In the end the harlequin is caught, his hands are attached to strings worked by the hand, and he has to sculpt a giant hand in a cage. But, after finishing his works, the artist escapes and returns to his beloved home. It sadly is his own beloved plant that kills him by falling on his head, while he’s barricading the entrances to his room. The hand gives the artist a state funeral, making him posthumously part of the system.

‘The Hand’ was Czech puppet animator Jiří Trnka’s last film, and it was to be his masterpiece. Instead of diving into classic tales, he made one of his own, resulting in a most personal film and one that stands as the classic animated tale on totalitarianism.

Trnka manages to tell his tale without any dialogue. Although the puppet of the harlequin knows only one expression, his emotions are well-felt through his animation. There’s no doubt he’s symbolic for artists working in totalitarian regimes in general. The glove is a masterstroke. In its facelessness it is as scary as it is symbolic for the invisible hand of totalitarian power. The result is an equally sad and disturbing film, which shows both Trnka’s genius and the power of animation in general.

It’s no small surprise that this highly symbolic film was forbidden in communist Czechoslovakia.

‘The Hand’s message is still topical, being symbolic for artists working in oppressive regimes all over the world.

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

 

‘The Hand’ is available on the DVD ‘The Puppet Films of Jiri Trnka’

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