Here is the second half of my in-depth (though not exactly comprehensive) look at the films of the great Czech animator Břetislav Pojar. The first half can be found here.
The late Břetislav Pojar was one of the finest animators of the past several decades, and certainly one of the greatest names in Czech animation. He animated for the legendary stop-motion filmmaker Jiří Trnka starting in the late 1940s, serving as one of his most important collaborators (Trnka could not animate himself); in the early 50s, he became a full-fledged director (while still animating for Trnka), and would create many distinctive films that varied in their artistic style, narrative, and medium, including some for the National Film Board of Canada. What sets Pojar’s films apart is a charming, playful sense of humor, at times spilling into satire, as well as a focus on the expressiveness of movement and an insight into the virtues, vices, and foibles of humanity; all these elements, along with the variety in approaches and the lyricism seen even in his more didactic films, make his filmography refreshing and well worth exploring.
In that regard, I thought I would discuss several of his films as a starting point for animation fans to get into his work. By no means is it intended to be comprehensive or even a “best picks” selection, but any degree of exposure is good exposure, especially for an animator of Pojar’s caliber. I hope to write more articles like this for other great international animators in the future, but that depends on how much time I have.
Yes, after a long hiatus caused by the departure of chief editor Tamerlane, On the Ones is officially active as a collaborative animation analysis/research blog again. And as a means of furthering discourse, so are the Capsule Reviews, which I hope will become a monthly feature showcasing not only OTO staff reviews of animated films, but the reviews of readers, too. As with last time, each monthly post will be updated as new reviews trickle in; for my part, I will write two reviews to start off each post,
and contribute two more over the course of the month. (EDIT: Under current circumstances, I am now unable to do this.)
In that regard, once again, anyone can contribute to the Capsule Reviews. If you’d like to contribute a short, paragraph-or-two-long write-up of any animated film, please don’t hesitate to contact me through Twitter or through the comments section of this post—I encourage audience participation! (more…)
Pinscreen animation is not well-known among most animation fans, understandably: not very many films have been made using the painstaking medium to begin with, and even then they are far removed from standard mediums of animation aesthetically and thematically. But anyone who seeks the best of them out will be rewarded with surreal, often impressionistic gems that open up new possibilities for animated expression.
The pinscreen is a device consisting of several (as in, up to over a million) small pins in holes; with some effort, the pins can be pushed into and out of their holes. The screen is then lit from an angle such that the pins create varying shadows, depending on how much they protrude from the screen; taken together, the shadows can create images that resemble engravings, complete with chiaroscuro (striking use of light and dark shadings). As the images are viewed directly at the front of the screen, the pins themselves do not affect any one given image more than they do another, no matter how far out they stick.
There is one big problem, though: it is difficult and time-consuming to manipulate the pinscreen in order to create the desired images, let alone animate them. The device was created by Alexandre Alexeieff and Claire Parker in the early 1930s, and they would create a number of interesting films over a span of several decades, two of the most notable being Night on Bald Mountain (set to Mussorgsky’s famous piece as arranged by Rimsky-Korsakov) and The Nose (from the Gogol short story of the same name). In 1972, the National Film Board of Canada acquired a pinscreen, and Alexeieff and Parker were invited to demonstrate the device to the animators there.
However, only UCLA-returned newcomer Jacques Drouin, who had been acquainted with pinscreen animation since seeing The Nose at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in the 60s, would use the pinscreen regularly and explore its capabilities. Carrying on Alexeieff’s legacy, between 1974 and 2004 Drouin made six films at the NFBC using the pinscreen (one, Nightangel, in collaboration with Czech stop-motion animator Břetislav Pojar), as well as a segment for Kihachiro Kawamoto’s collaborative film Winter Days.
Perhaps his most well-known film, if not his masterpiece, is Mindscape, released in 1976.
More opinions in the atmosphere can only benefit discussion. This is a new feature where OTO editors and other contributors will post capsule reviews (short, paragraph-long reviews of a given film). The post will update throughout the month as more reviews are added. Since some of the OTO editors are busy working on longer posts, it might be dominated by my reviews at first (I’ll try to get one out weekly).
But more importantly, anyone can contribute to this. If you have a short, 1-2 paragraph review for basically anything, contact me on twitter or in the comments below. Audience participation is encouraged!