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Director: J.R. Bray
Release Date: June 12, 1913
Stars: J.R. Bray
Rating: ★★★★

The Artist's Dream © J.R. BrayJ.R. Bray is the father of the cartoon industry, but this short is from a period in which J.R. Bray was still a lone artist, like other animation pioneers as J. Stuart Blackton, Émile Cohl and Winsor McCay.

In fact, ‘The Artist’s Dream’ is only J.R. Bray’s second attempt at animation, and the film is still rooted in the drawings come to life tradition of the earliest animated films.

Bray plays an artist drawing a dachshund and a sausage. While he’s away the dachshund eats the sausage, and later another till he explodes. Of course, all has been a dream, which clearly shows the strong influence of Winsor McCay’s dreams of the rarebit fiend.

‘The Artist’s Dream’ shows Bray’s extraordinary drawing skills, as his drawings are very clear and contain elegant shading. His handling of perspective is perfect and no less than McCay’s. The animation, on the other hand, is less fluent than McCay’s, if still of a remarkably high quality. Unfortunately, he would not transfer this level of art to his later studio films.

Watch ‘The Artist’s Dream’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘The Artist’s Dream’ has been released on the DVD & Blu-Ray-set ‘Cartoon Roots: The Bray Studios Animation Pioneers’

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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