Fascination For Animation
No one can doubt my commitment to the art of animation. When most of the other graduating seniors at Burlingame High School went to Disneyland for an all-night celebration, my two best friends and I went to an international animation festival at the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley.
Judging by the reactions of those who went to Anaheim, we got the better of the deal.
For those who want to go beyond the Hollywood studio version of animation, there is an annual compilation known as the Animation Show (www.animationshow.com), now in its fourth incarnation, playing June 13-19 at the Nuart Theatre in West Los Angeles. Mike Judge, who so delightfully warped our minds with Beavis and Butthead Do America, has once again organized his favorite animation shorts from around the world. Among those to peel your eyeballs for are Angry Unpaid Hooker by Steve Dildarian, in which a whitebread dude is caught by his girlfriend with…well, the title tells it all, and the droll delivery of lines perfectly compliments the childlike illustrations. HBO is planning a series based on this and won’t that be something to enjoy…without the kiddies.
Mr. Schwartz, Mr. Hazen & Mr. Horlocker is from Germany’s Stefan Mueller and it is far and away the most hallucinogenic of the bunch. When a cop shows up after a noise complaint, three separate apartments and their tenants interact in the most surreal and wildly unpredictable of ways. Swiss filmmaker George Schwizgebel, working through the National Film Board of Canada, produced a dizzyingly complex, interlocking series of lovely imagery in Jeu, one that seems like it could have been made by M.C. Escher The French studio known as Gobelins has a richly artistic reply to the Indiana Jones saga in the colorful Voodoo, as a group of arrogant explorers force their way into the wrong ancient temple and pay a superbly supernatural price for their intrusion. And the British team of Smith and Foulkes make the topic of death awfully cheery with This Way Up. In it, two undertakers have the Devil’s own time simply burying a casket and one wonders whether they will meet their deadline or meet their Maker.
For those who are true animation cineastes—and those who like to extend the boundaries of their film knowledge in general—there is the incomparable Facets Multimedia(www.facets.org) in Chicago. They are the place to go when you can’t find it anywhere else and they have a really charming, unique four DVD collection of a highly inventive San Francisco animator, the Lawrence Jordan Album.
Jordan used many techniques but is best known for cutting out, colorizing and adding effects to engravings. Nowhere else is this technique used to such great impact as in his well-known and astonishing version of Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Using Gustav Dore’s artwork, Jordan also managed to get Orson Welles to recite with undeniable power this epic poem. It reminds us of how Welles so assuredly took the stage and film world by storm.
Jordan’s shorter films are quite picaresque and the unpredictability of usually inanimate objects moving through detailed, engraved backgrounds is oddly relaxing, if one allows for a release of narrative and savors the visuals and the often classical music beds that Jordan relies upon. He shows too a willingness to combine animation and documentary technique in Cornell, 1965, during which Jordan worked as an assistant to artist Joseph Cornell and his technique of making boxed assemblage.
There is no better way to summarize the exacting nature and perseverance needed in animation than Jordan’s two year production on The Sacred Art of Tibet, found on the fourth and final DVD of the collection He overlays Tibetan painting and sculpture with live action images of natural beauty and a female voice-over serenely introduces us to major biographical figures in Northern Buddhist philosophy. It’s a reminder that animation was and still is so much more than cute little talking animals selling you a product, that it can and should be, at times, mystifying, hard to define and beyond the normal considerations of live action filmmaking.