You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘surrealism’ tag.

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date:
 September 24, 1930
Stars: Bimbo?
Rating: ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

Swing You Sinners © Max Fleischer‘Swing You Sinners!’ is an early Talkartoon, and a wildly imaginative one, too.

We watch a thief (probably Bimbo, but his appearance in the early Talkartoons is so inconsistent, one can’t be sure). The thief tries to steal a chicken, but runs into a cop. The thief then flees into a graveyard, where he has a particularly nightmarish experience. First the gate locks itself, then turns into a stone wall, and then the graves start to sing…

Soon all kinds of inanimate objects start to haunt him. And although the soundtrack is very jazzy, ‘Swing You Sinners!’ remains a bad trip throughout. At one time the walls close into him, at another a ghost promises him to give him a ‘permanent shave’.

The animation is extremely rubbery, and even insane. For example, when we watch a chicken do some scatting, both the chicken and the background are very wobbly, to a hallucinating effect. In the end we watch countless ghosts marching, followed by even more ghostly images when the thief starts to descend into hell. The cartoon ends with a giant skull swallowing the thief, a surprisingly grim ending for a cartoon with such swinging music*.

In any case ‘Swing You Sinners!’ is a testimony of the sheer creativity, which was the Max Fleischer Studio in the early 1930s, and should be placed among the greatest cartoons of all time.

Watch ‘Swing You Sinners!’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Talkartoon No. 10
To the previous Talkartoon: Barnacle Bill
To the next Talkartoon: Grand Uproar

‘Swing You Sinners’ is available on the French DVD Box Set ‘Betty Boop Coffret Collector’

*It may be interesting to note that this is one of the earliest mentions of swing, predating for example Duke Ellington’s song ‘It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)’ by two years, and being miles ahead of the swing craze of the second half of the 1930s.

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Director: Priit Pärn
Release Date: 1984
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Time Out © Priit Pärn‘Time Out’ is Priit Pärn’s fifth film, but the first to gain a widespread attention, and to win a number of international prizes.

It shows the filmmaker’s idiosyncratic style and unique surrealism, without the dark side, often present in his other films. The film is filled with child-like wonder, and a happy atmosphere, enhanced by the joyful reggae music by composer Olav Ehala.

The film opens with a room in which a very stressed out cat lives. The cat is in a constant need to check his alarm clock, which is on a shelf too high for him. When he finally reaches the clock, he discovers he can’t read it without his glasses, so he has to find them first, etc. Pärn shows this pointless ritual in several variations over and over again, following the cat running around in his room.

At one point, however, the alarm clock breaks, and time stands still. At this point of the film the cat finds himself in a fantastic world where everything can happen. This part is extremely rich in visual tricks, which go all the way back to Émile Cohl’s ‘Fantasmagorie‘ (1908). Nothing is what it seems, and metamorphosis runs freely. Unfortunately, in the end, time is restored, and the cat has to face his former stressful life once again.

‘Time Out’ certainly shows Priit Pärn’s mastery, and excellent timing. His fantasy is extraordinary, and the film shows the power of animation like few other films do. It’s also a reminder that we should snap out of the daily routine, and let our mind wander, and be really creative. When one takes time, everything may be possible!

Watch ‘Time Out’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Jan Švankmajer
Release Date: August 3, 1988
Rating: ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

Alice © Jan SvankmajerOf all classic literature, Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’ is certainly the most dreamlike, and it’s no wonder that it came to the attention of Czech master surrealist Jan Švankmajer.

Already in 1971 he had made a film on Carroll’s poem Jabberwocky, but arguably, this film has little to do with the poem. ‘Alice’ continues the surreal atmosphere of his earlier film and remains faithful to the book.

‘Alice’ was Jan Švankmajer’s first feature length film, and it really shows his craft and strikingly original vision. It is one of the best, probably the most original, and certainly the most disturbing film adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s world famous book. In any case, it’s among the best animated features of all time.

Where the Walt Disney version focused on the loony, fantastic parts of the story, Švankmajer emphasizes its irrational, surreal character. Švankmajer puts the story in a setting completely his own. Although the film opens with the classic opening near the brook, after the titles, the action takes place mostly indoors, creating a claustrophobic atmosphere typical for this film, only matched by Švankmajer’s second feature film, ‘Faust’ (1994). In Švankmajer’s film ‘wonderland’ consists of an endless string of dirty old rooms, connected by many doors and desks with drawers, all of which the knob comes off. Even the lovely garden is no more than a stage with props.

The drawer knobs form the running gag in a movie which is low on humor, but high on unsettling and impressive images, starting with the stuffed rabbit suddenly coming to life and smashing the glass of its glass display with its scissors. Other highly memorable scenes are the stuffed rabbit eating sawdust, which falls out again its open belly; the mouse cooking on Alice’s head, the room of hole-digging socks; and the mindless and mechanical repetition of the mad tea-party scene, timed to perfection.

Švankmajer’s wonderland is a morbid world. Its inhabitants are stuffed animals, dolls, playing cards, and even a bunch of macabre fantasy creatures, oddly joined together from body parts from different animals and lifeless objects, and which form a real threat to the little girl. In this world, anything can become alive, as demonstrated by e.g. Alice’s own socks. At the same time, Alice remains the only really living thing, and even she turns into a doll three times. Death, too, is near: at one point in the film we see the mouse, still in his clothes, caught by a mousetrap, dead. And in Švankmajer’s wonderland, the queen of heart’s orders are executed, and several characters are decapitated, including the mad hatter and the march hare…

‘Alice’ uses a perfect blend of stop motion and live action, and has an excellent protagonist in young actor Kristýna Kohoutová. If the film has one flaw, it must be the girl’s voice, which provides all the dialogue and narration. It’s often unwelcome and out of place, and it doesn’t really work well in dialogue-rich scenes, like the mad tea scene or the trial scene.

Švankmajer is at his best when the action is silent and the images speak for themselves. These scenes are greatly added by superb sound design, provided by Ivo Špalj and Robert Jansa, which add to the creepy, wretched atmosphere of the film. ‘Alice’ is certainly not your average family film, but the viewer who dares to enter this film’s unique world, will not be disappointed.

Watch the trailer for ‘Alice’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Jan Švankmajer
Release Date: 1980
Rating: ★★
Review:

The Fall of the House of Usher © Krátky FilmJan Švankmajer retells this famous story by Edgar Allen Poe using a narrating voice over and black and white images of several different objects.

The images, some of which are animated, are sometimes quite disturbing, and are at points even able to evoke the horror of the story. However, most of the time they seem totally unrelated to the narration, and their visual power in fact often distracts from the voice over, making the story very hard to follow, indeed.

‘The House of Usher’ is a daring experiment in cinematographic storytelling, but not really a successful one, and Švankmajer would not repeat it. Nevertheless, three years later, the Czech film maker would return to Edgar Allen Poe, in ‘The Pendulum, the Pit and Hope‘, with much better results.

Watch ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ is available on the DVD ‘Jan Svankmajer – The Complete Short Films’

Director: Keith Griffiths, Quay Brothers
Airing Date: 1984
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer © Quay Brothers‘The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer’ is a documentary about the Czech master of surrealism.

It was made by the Quay Brothers with the sole purpose of being able to watch Švankmajer’s films themselves. Advertised to the BBC as a documentary on French and Czech surrealism, the film is rather highbrow, featuring artists and art historians, whose remarks are sometimes very difficult to grasp, indeed.

Unfortunately, the master himself refused to be interviewed and he is not shown at all. Luckily, Švankmajer’s strong images speak for themselves, and the documentary undoubtedly helped to raise interest in Švankmajer’s films in the West.

The documentary shows excerpts from Švankmajer’s films ‘Dimensions of a Dialogue‘ (which de facto is shown in its entirety), ‘The Last Trick‘, ‘The Flat’, ‘Et Cetera‘, ‘Jabberwocky‘, ‘Historia Naturae, Suita‘, ‘The Ossuary‘, ‘Games with Stones‘, ‘Punch and Judy’, ‘Don Juan‘ and ‘The Fall of the House of Usher‘.

However, ‘The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer’ is also interesting for animation buffs, even for the one who have seen all Jan Švankmajer’s films, for its original interludes, which are animated by the Quay brothers. These interludes have a truly Švankmajer-like atmosphere, highlighted by the reuse of music from Švankmajer’s films. They feature a Švankmajer-like teacher, made of household objects, and his apprentice, a doll, whose head is emptied in order to let him experience the world anew.

These interludes are no less than wonderful and form an animation short in itself, which is both a great homage to the Czech master and a showcase of the Quay brothers’ own art. In fact, the Quay Brothers compiled the interludes and these are available and widely known under the same name as the complete documentary, which is, in fact, eclipsed by the animated short version.

Watch the animated interludes from ‘The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer’ is available on the DVD ‘Jan Svankmajer – The Complete Short Films’

s.Director: Jack Hannah
Release Date: June 20 1947
Stars: Donald Duck, The Aracuan Bird
Rating:  ★★★★★
Review:

Clown of the Jungle © Walt Disney‘Clown of the Jungle’ reintroduces the Aracuan bird from ‘The Three Caballeros‘ (1944), now hindering Donald’s attempts to photograph birds.

The Aracuan bird is a surreal character, defying all laws of nature. For example, it can cycle in mid-air, duplicate itself and draw a door on a rock, and enter it. These abilities are very rare for a Disney character, and there’s no doubt that the Aracuan bird was inspired by the more absurd humor from the Warner Bros. and Tex Avery’s MGM cartoons.

Director Jack Hannah handles this type of humor remarkably well, delivering the gags in a fast pace and with an excellent timing, making ‘Clown of the Jungle’ not only the most surreal, but also one of the wildest and funniest Disney cartoons from the postwar era.

Being such a wonderful character, The Aracuan bird would return once more the following year, in the sequence ‘Blame it on the Samba‘ from ‘Melody Time‘ (1948). Unfortunately, the character remained alone in its zaniness within the Disney canon, and other Disney postwar cartoons remained much more conventional.

Watch ‘Clown of the Jungle’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Donald Duck cartoon No. 62
To the previous Donald Duck cartoon: Sleepy Time Donald
To the next Donald Duck cartoon: Donald’s Dilemma

Directors: Kaspar Jancis, Ülo Pikkov & Priit Tender
Release Date: March 25, 2005
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Frank & Wendy © Eesti JoonisfilmProbably one of the weirdest animated features ever made, Frank & Wendy belongs to the most commercial films ever produced by the Eesti Joonis film studios.

It features plenty of action, loud rock music, and a weird sense of humor, while it lacks the disturbing qualities of earlier films produced in this studio. Despite clearly being pure entertainment, it nonetheless retains the strong absurdism and surrealism typical for the Eesti Joonis studio, thanks to the screenplays and storyboards by Estonian animation master Priit Pärn. Frank & Wendy was originally conceived as a television series, and the feature has retained its episodic character, being divided into seven rather unrelated episodes.

Frank and Wendy are American FBI agents living in Estonia, saving the world from the most bizarre evil schemes, like a fast food chain selling hamburgers, which transmit a hunger message, and an amusement park designed to let live polar bears eat American elderly tourists. Also featured are politicians Vladimir Putin and Tony Blair, while several characters from other Eesti Joonisfilms have a cameo. The plots are very hard to re-tell and make even less sense on paper than on the screen.

Frank & Wendy is an entertaining movie, but due to its lack of plot and its episodic nature, watching it becomes a bit tiresome. In the end it fails to be a masterpiece.

Watch an excerpt from ‘Frank & Wendy’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: René Laloux
Release Date: 1988
Rating: ★★★★½
Review:

La prisonnière © René Laloux‘La Prisonnière’ is a short, rather surrealistic science fiction film about two children.

They visit an extraterrestrial monastery and witness a rescue of a prisoner by naked women who step out of a stranded whale.

The film looks like an animated version of designer Caza’s source comic, Équinoxe (which can be found here), and contains only a limited amount of animation. In his designs Caza’s style is very reminiscent of that of his fellow french comic artist Moebius.

‘La prisonnière’ seems like an etude for Laloux’s and Caza’s much bigger project, the feature film ‘Gandahar‘ (1988). The atmosphere of the short is poetic, if completely incomprehensible.

Watch ‘La Prisonnière’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘La Prisonnière’ is available on the DVD ‘Gandahar’

Director: Georges Schwizgebel
Release Date: 1982
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Le ravissement de Frank N. Stein © Georges Schwizgebel‘Le ravissement de Frank N. Stein’ starts with very abstract images, which resolve into Frankenstein’s laboratory as depicted in the film from 1931.

After 1’40 we become the monster itself, walking through endless chambers and corridors and staircases in an almost computer animation-like long sequence of perspective animation. The rooms, initially filled with abstract shapes, become more and more complex. They contain more and more windows and human forms, and finally moving human forms, ending with multiple copies of the monster’s bride. In the end we watch the monster itself, in his depiction by Boris Karloff. he smiles at his bride, but she only screams…

This film, which is set to very nervous electronic music, is a very impressive study of perspective: we really feel we are walking. The film has a repetitive and dreamlike quality, which is enhanced by its surreal settings, reminiscent of paintings by Giorgio de Chirico.

Watch ‘Le ravissement de Frank N. Stein’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Le ravissement de Frank N. Stein’ is available on the DVD ‘Les Peintures animées de Georges Schwizgebel’

Director: Jan Švankmajer
Release Date: 1971
Rating: ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

Jabberwocky © Jan Svankmajer‘Jabberwocky’ has little to do with the poem from Lewis Carroll’s ‘Through The Looking Glass’, although we hear it being recited by a little girl during the opening sequence.

The film it is Švankmajer’s surrealistic masterpiece on the loss of childhood, depicted by several episodes, which are separated by a box of bricks, a labyrinth and a black cat crushing the box of bricks.

During the episodes we are treated on extremely surrealistic images of very active inanimate objects in a child’s room. First we watch a boy’s suit growing a forest in his room, defying both time and authority (symbolized by the portrait in the room). Then we watch large cannibalistic dolls grinding, ironing and eating little dolls, a china baby in a cradle destroying two tin armies, a pocket knife performing acrobatic tricks until it makes an ill-fated fall and stabs itself, and finally, schoolbooks producing paper boats and planes, which fly out of the window, while the father’s portrait produces pictures of beautiful women.

This last episode shows the child’s changing interests. In the end the labyrinth is solved, the cat – the only living thing in the entire film – is caged, and the boy’s suit is replaced by an adult one. The boy is free from his parent, but the days of imagination are over, the fantasy is gone.

For this film Švankmajer makes excellent use of 19th century imagery (sailor suit, vintage dolls and toys) to create a completely unique world. It’s the film maker’s most typical film, partly expanding on ideas explored in ‘Historia Naturae, Suita‘ (1967), and showing his fascination with fantasy, cruelty and decay, which roam freely in the child’s self-contained room. The rather morbid behavior of the everyday objects is quite unsettling and it shows how a child’s fantasy can be both imaginative and cruel.

‘Jabberwocky’ is without doubt one of Švankmajer’s most powerful films. He would only top it eleven years later, with ‘Dimensions of a Dialogue‘ (1982). Švankmajer would explore the imagination of children further in the moving ‘Down to the Cellar‘ (1983), and in his unique adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s most famous work ‘Alice‘ (1987).

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

‘Jabberwocky’ is available on the DVD ‘Jan Svankmajer – The Complete Short Films’

Director: Jan Švankmajer
Release Date: 1969
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Don Juan © Jan SvankmajerIn ‘Don Juan’ Švankmajer’s retells a classic tale from the marionette theater.

The story unfolds in half an hour: Don Juan is a rogue who kills his father, the father of his beloved and his own brother, only to be taken into the depths off hell.

Oddly enough the film is enacted by people dressed as marionettes and behaving accordingly. This allows the marionettes to leave the theater and to perform in the real world, which is strangely intermingled with the marionette theater. This blend of the real and the artificial gives the film a weird and disturbing atmosphere. Švankmajer would reuse and improve upon this mix in his masterpiece, the feature film ‘Faust’ (1994).

This film contains hardly any animation, and may therefore not be included in this blog. However, it takes a central part in Švankmajer’s oeuvre, who has always blended several different techniques into his works. It’s best to review his oeuvre as a whole, being animated or not.

Watch ‘Don Šajn’ yourself and tell me what you think:

http://vdownload.eu/watch/12204836-jan-svankmajer-%D0%B4%D0%BE%D0%BD-%D0%B6%D1%83%D0%B0%D0%BD-don-352-ajn-don-juan-1969.html

 

‘Don Šajn’ is available on the DVD ‘Jan Svankmajer – The Complete Short Films’

Director: Jan Švankmajer
Release Date: 1969
Rating: ★★
Review:

A Quiet Week in the House © Jan Svankmajer‘A Quiet Week in the House’ is the last film in a series of four involving people facing surreal settings, which Švankmajer made in 1968-1969.

in this film a fugitive seeks shelter in an abandoned house. Every day he digs a hole in one of the doors of the corridor in which he sleeps. Every day he looks through the hole to watch weird surrealistic images of inanimate things behaving strangely. After a week he sets up a device to blow up all doors.

The live action footage is shot in black-and-white, and is accompanied by the sound of a camera. The surrealistic images, on the other hand, are shot in color and completely silent. Unfortunately, the film is too long, and it fails to be as impressive as related films like ‘The flat’ (1968) or ‘Jabberwocky‘ (1971), being neither completely disturbing nor very entertaining. ‘A Quiet Week in the House’ remains one of Švankmajer’s rare weak films.

Watch ‘A Quiet Week in the House’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘A Quiet Week in the House’ is available on the DVD ‘Jan Svankmajer – The Complete Short Films’

Directors: John Halas & Joy Batchelor
Release Date: 1948
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Magic Canvas © Halas & Batchelor‘Magic Canvas’ is rather pretentiously introduced as “something different (….), new and exciting”.

Luckily, the film is rather original and exciting: using a rather abstract score by Hungarian composer Mátyás Seiber, it consists of associative images with a strong sense of surrealism. It loosely tells the story of man struggling to be free. Even though it has to pay its debts to Disney’s ‘Fantasia’ (1940), ‘The Magic Canvas’ surely is one of the most avant-gardistic films of its time, and a testimony of Halas & Batchelor’s animation ambitions.

Watch ‘Magic Canvas’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Magic Canvas’ is available on the DVD inside the book ‘Halas & Batchelor Cartoons’

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: Raoul Servais
Release Date: 1979
Rating: ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

Harpya © Raoul ServaisA man rescues a harpy from a man who strangles her. He takes her home, but with disastrous results, because he soon discovers that the harpy eats all his food…

‘Harpya’ is a fantastic surreal film, which makes great use of a mixture of animation, live action and pixillation to create a totally unique atmosphere. The film is both funny and uncanny, and its story is Servais’s best since ‘Sirene’ (1968).

With ‘Harpya’ Raoul Servais made his most enduring work. It’s his all-time masterpiece, and a central film in his oeuvre, defining his mature style.

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

Director: Raoul Servais
Release Date: 1973
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Pegasus © Raoul Servais‘Pegasus’ tells about a lonely blacksmith who lives in the countryside.

The blacksmith has a love for horses, but unfortunately his surroundings are totally devoid of them. So he builds a horse head out of metal to worship. Unfortunately, the horse head appears to have an ability to grow and reproduce, surrounding his house like a forest.

‘Pegasus’ is a beautiful and surreal film. Unfortunately, it ends quite abruptly, leaving behind a sense that not everything has been said, yet.

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

Director: Friz Freleng
Release Date:
 September 2, 1949
Stars:
 Porky Pig
Rating:
 ★★★★½
Review:

Dough for the Do-Do © Warner Brothers‘Dough for the Do-Do’ is a remake of Bob Clampett’s ‘Porky in Wackyland‘ (1938) in color.

The cartoon is more than a recoloring, however. Porky is reanimated throughout, and several scenes are different from the original. Scenes that are omitted are the paperboy appearing on the title card, Porky showing us a picture of the dodo, and the cat-dog attacking itself. Two scenes are altered: the way the guide ‘leads’ Porky to the dodo, and the finale: in the original Porky dresses as a paperboy announcing that Porky has captured the dodo, in ‘Dough for the Do-Do’, Porky dresses like a do-do, making the bird itself think he has caught the last of the do-dos.

The most conspicious difference between ‘Dough for the Do-Do’ and ”Porky in Wackyland’, however, is found in the backgrounds: where the original had rather undefined, a little George Herriman-like backgrounds, the remake uses clearly Salvador Dalí-inspired settings, full of typical Dalí-rocks, sticks and eyes. The title card even shows Dalí’s melted watches, linking cartoon surrealism to high art surrealism. Dalí-inspired scenery would return two years later in the Porky Pig cartoon ‘Wearing of the Grin’ from 1951.

It is striking to see how different this cartoon is from its contemporaries. ‘Porky in Wackyland’ was a milestone in surrealism, a move forward in wackiness, an innovative cartoon stirring up the childish make-belief world of the 1930s cartoons. However, eleven years later its remake ‘Dough for the Do-do’ feels old-fashioned: its animation is crude, its characters are unrefined, and its zaniness seems to come from another era.

And it does: in the late 1940s, the wild surrealism of the early Warner Bros. cartoons had toned down. It survived in cartoon conventions, which always contained a twist of surrealism, but the outlandishness had disappeared. Now, more emphasis was played on character humor and dialogue, something the Warner Bros. studio excelled at with its numerous stars. Only at MGM and Walter Lantz some of the original zany vibe was retained, but at large the wild era of studio cartoons was clearly over.

Watch ‘Dough for the Do-Do’ yourself and tell me what you think:

http://www.220.ro/desene-animate/16-Porky-Dough-For-The-Do-Do-1949/mL0EVmznKK/

‘Dough for the Do-Do’ is available on the DVD set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection, Vol. 1’

This is Porky Pig cartoon no. 128
To the previous Porky Pig cartoon: Often an Orphan
To the next Porky Pig cartoon: Bye, Bye Bluebeard

Director: ?
Release Date: May 27, 1948
Stars: Donald Duck, Joe Carioca, The Aracuan Bird
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Blame it on the Samba © Walt DisneySung by Ethel Smith and the Dinning Sisters, ‘Blame it on the Samba’ looks like a lost sequence from ‘The Three Caballeros‘ (1944)

The short, the sixth segment from ‘Melody Time‘, reunites Donald Duck, Joe Carioca and the Aracuan bird. The latter serves as the cartoon’s surreal character, who can cross the three dimensions, not unlike the Do-Do in ‘Porky in Wacky Land’ (1938). It’s this feature that makes ‘Blame It On The Samba’ so enjoyable.

Again, the Mary Blair-inspired backgrounds are highly stylized, even almost abstract, and extremely colorful. It also features some live action footage of Ethel Smith dancing and playing the organ and a pair of conga’s. Unfortunately, the music seems to be more about samba than being it, and it never becomes really hot.

Nevertheless, ‘Blame It On The Samba’ is a welcome diversion after Melody Time’s three tiresome episodes ‘The Legend of Johnny Appleseed‘,  ‘Little Toot‘ and ‘Trees‘.

Watch ‘Blame it on the Samba’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Jan Švankmajer
Release Date: 1967
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Historia Naturae, Suita © Jan Svankmajer‘Historia Naturae, Suita’ is an abstract, yet morbid and disturbing film.

It uses drawings, models, skeletons, stuffed and live animals, which change into each other and which perform morbid dances. Their antics are interspersed with a close up of a man eating meat.

We see molluscs (Aquatilia, foxtrot), insects (Hexapoda, bolero), fish (Pisces, blues), reptiles (Reptilia, tarantella), birds (Aves, tango), mammals (Mammalia, menuet), monkeys (Simiae, polka) and man (Homo, waltz), successively.

It shows us that we, men, are made from the same mortal matter as the rest of the animal kingdom, which in this film appear to us only as collectibles or food. This unsettling reminder is emphasized by the last shot, in which the human is replaced by a skull, eating…

The music is a perfect match to the surrealistic imagery, with its rather abstract, uncanny and atonal renderings of the dance forms mentioned.

Watch ‘Historia Naturae, Suita’ yourself and tell me what you think:

http://www.totalshortfilms.com/ver/pelicula/379

‘Historia Naturae, Suita’ is available on the DVD ‘Jan Svankmajer – The Complete Short Films’

Director: Jan Švankmajer
Release Date: 1966
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Et Cetera © Jan SvankmajerIn ‘Et Cetera’ three faceless human figures demonstrate repetitive and aimless actions.

The first shows how to fly with wings, only to reach his own starting point. The second transforms himself into the animal he’s training using a whip, and the third keeps on drawing houses he cannot enter or leave.

Unlike most of Jan Švankmajer’s films, ‘Et Cetera’ uses 2d animation. It’s a clever and somehow saddening film: although the three little stories are extremely simple, they seem to tell something about the condition humaine. ‘Et Cetera’ uses great electronic music, which adds to the surrealistic atmosphere.

Watch ‘Et Cetera’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Et Cetera’ is available on the DVD ‘Jan Svankmajer – The Complete Short Films’

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