FRIDAY, JULY 6 - THURSDAY, JULY 12 at Film
Review by Erik Raschke
have been watching a lot of daytime television lately and this has warped
my perception of the world. So, watching any Jan Svankmajer movie obviously
leaves me feeling slightly tattered. I was purposely dizzied by Svankmajer's
cinematography as he easily replaced character development and storyline
with violent mastication and rodent decapitation. In the film "Alice"
there were socks that became worms that ate the wooden floorboards, cockroaches
squirming out of cans, raw prime cuts of beef that scampered around like
a starving rats, and a white rabbit that fiendishly snaps it's teeth and
eats it's own innards.
But there's more. So much more.
I am coming from the world of "Extra" where the stories are
in concise three-minute segments to Svankmajer's "militant surrealism."
The man has no boundaries and I know he would pluck Salavador Dali's moustache,
given the chance, and concoct some hideous creation with it. Surrealism,
to me, meant Magritte, Ernst, and Miro, that is until I saw Svankmajer's
work, a being truly unto itself.
For instance, part 2 of "Dimensions in Dialogue" involves two
clay heads simultaneously deconstructing the defined functions of household
materials such as wheat bread, toothpaste, pencil sharpeners, and butter
knives. They stick out their ham-like tongues and the pencil sharpener
whittles away the butter, the bread is covered in toothpaste, the pencil
sharpener is covered in butter, etc. etc. etc. Form vs. function, form
vs. function, form beating you over the head with it's function.
is Svankmajer a genius? Many people seem to think so including our very
own Tim Burton and The Brothers Quay. I tend to agree with them, but does
that mean I will be excited to see more and more of his movies? Probably
I'm shallow. I feel much more comfortable with the easily digestible fuzzy
antics of Rankin-Bass. I like Rudolf who moves from one frame to another
while his LED nose blinks like something from the game "Operation."
And there is the obviously Styrofoam Frosty the Snowman, singing and rocking
back and forth every New Years. Even Henry Selick's "James and the
Giant Peach" was fun and well-written and left me giggling. Now,
imagine, in the world of Svankmajer, a Rankin-Bass Santa Claus. The Jolly
Saint Nick would slowly devour his beloved stuffed Elves and spit them
back up into creepy (I use the word "creepy" in the most literal
of terms) metal toys which would go on to do other "creepy"
things to the rest of the Claus clan.
It's not pretty.
There is something to behold here though. The man is like no other and
in the Hollywood mega-world of Tomb Raider and The Fast and
The Furious this is something to be admired. Also, Svankmajer came
from Soviet times, when most good art had to work well outside of the
established boundaries of acceptability or else be repressed. Svankmajer
wasn't condemned during these times, but he certainly wasn't promoted.
He sort of fell through the cracks and has come up standing, his work
a vivid, brilliant, and daring collage of surrealism that is not for the
Free Williamsburg© | 93 Berry Street | Brooklyn,
| July 2001 | Issue 16
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