Saturday, 27 February 2010


As its (ludicrous) name would suggest, Sissy Boy Slap Party (1995) features a group of effeminate men on a tropical island, slapping each other silly to the sound of machine guns. Director Guy Maddin is well-known for his faux-silent movie style, which is used to unusual effect here. No need to keep a keen eye out for subtle tropes or symbolic signifiers - this film is more the territory of John Waters (himself a fan).

I initially took a dislike to this film, believing I'd seen it elsewhere in various incarnations. But on closer inspection, Harpya (1979) is a lot more rewarding than I first gave it credit for. The design of the creature is marvellous, as is the lighting. This won a Golden Palm back in the day, and it's easy to see why.

This is essentially just a demo reel, but nonetheless incredible. John Whitney was one of the early computer animators who worked with Alfred Hitchcock and Saul Bass on the Vertigo title sequence. In terms of form and content, they aren't hugely interesting, but you have to remember the time they were made, and the fact that the process was completely analogue.

Thursday, 25 February 2010


Piotr Kamler is one in a long line of brilliant Polish animators. As with many of his fellow countrymen, Kamler eschews realistic depictions in favour of an emotive and abstract approach. In this short, L'Araignéléphant (1967), a confused creature questions who, what and why he is. The inventive visual style is augmented greatly by Bernard Parmegiani's sweet score, and while there are better films by Kamler, this never fails to cheer me up.

For his film Stealing Beauty (2000), Israeli artist Guy Ben-Ner took his family to Ikea stores in three different countries and had them act out family dramas in living room sets. The film starts looking as if Ben-Ner had made his own set, but as the film continues, it becomes more and more clear that no permissions have been granted, and filming is repeatedly interrupted by security personnel. The above video is just the trailer; watch the full film here at Ubuweb.

Synaesthesia is the condition of having sensory experiences cross over. For example, a person with the condition may taste salt when reading the letter G, or hear crows when thinking of the year 1911. The experiences are completely involuntary and the links are often arbitrary, but the theory goes that it is the result of 'over-learning' information. It is this subject that two-man team Terri Timely take on in their 2009 film Synesthesia. A family goes about its daily duties, apparently unfazed by the psychedelic experiences happening around them. As a synaesthete myself, I have to say that the real thing isn't quite as exciting, but this is a fun film worthy of your time.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010


Let's get the ball rolling! First is a Brakhage that I am ashamed to admit I saw for the first time today. The film is Mothlight (1963), and was created by sandwiching moth wings, blades of grass and other garden detritus between two layers of film stock, then projecting the film as it is. Through capturing and magnifying these small, delicate fragments of nature, Brakhage gives voice to a beauty we may previously have ignored. Sadly, the YouTube video above doesn't do it justice (I'll probably copy-paste that statement into every post), but hopefully it'll catch your attention.

Caroline Leaf is an animator who has used various materials throughout her long and illustrious career. In The Owl Who Married A Goose (1974), a special little fable created for the National Film Board of Canada, Leaf works with sand animation to narrate an unconventional love story based on an Inuit folktale. The soundtrack occasionally grates, but overall it's charming and skilfully executed.

Last but certainly not least is this wonderfully weird short from the emergent 'talkie' era. Tomato Is Another Day (1930) tells a mundane story in a deliberately mundane manner, poking fun at the inane vestiges of silent films that directors worked into the first sound films. The lead actors enunciate lines slowly and sparsely, conveying no emotion in the tone of their voice. The film was decried at its premi
ère, but we can appreciate it much more in a modern context. Brings to mind David Lynch's static melodrama Rabbits (2002).