21 Chapters
Medium 9781864620009

Resistance and subversion in animated films of the Nazi era

Edited by Jayne Pilling John Libbey Publishing ePub

 

The average person today might not know much about German film during the Nazi era and even animation scholars might not know what German animation existed between 1933 and 1945. Such a gap in cinema studies reflects a larger problem present in the United States’ perception of this crucial period. Forty years after the World War II, many Americans still naively accept simplistic stereotypes of the Nazis such as the demonic fiend whose appetite for sadistic cruelty is matched only by his ravenous, perverse sexual appetite (who inhabits such dramatic works as Visconti’s The Damned, and is the bumbling fool, somehow quaintly charming, popularised by such comedies as Hogan’s Heroes). A similar simplistic notion of the era itself – i.e. everything from 1933 to 1945 was Nazi, everything before or after wasn’t – clouds and weakens our perception of one of the most tragic and dangerous episodes in human history. Distancing the Nazis by making them into the stereotypes of demons and fools means we can comfortably say that ‘they weren’t like us’, and by containing them so solidly in a particular time slot, we can assure ourselves that ‘such horror can’t happen here and now’. Yet, the complex truth about the Nazi era is considerably more menacing.

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Medium 9781864620009

‘Reality’ effects in computer animation

Edited by Jayne Pilling John Libbey Publishing ePub

 

Giotto, the inventor of 3D

This is how Frederick Hartt, the author of a widely used textbook Art. A History of Painting, Sculpture, Architecture describes the importance of Giotto di Bondone, ‘the first giant in the long history of Italian painting’:

In contemporary Italian eyes the step from Cimabue to Giotto was immense in that weight and mass, light and inward extension were suddenly introduced in a direct and convincing manner.1

Giotto’s miracle lay in being able to produce for the first time on a flat surface three-dimensional forms, which the French could achieve only in sculpture. For the first time since antiquity a painter has truly conquered solid form.2

When the students in an introductory art history survey course that uses Hartt’s textbook were asked to compare Giotto and Cimabue, they described Giotto’s achievements in a somewhat different language: ‘Giotto first achieves strong 3D effect’; ‘Cimabue is still 2D, while Giotto has much more of 3D’. I believe that they were referring to three-dimensional computer graphics imagery. For them it had already become the yardstick by which the realism of any visual representation is to be measured.

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Medium 9781864620009

Second-order realism and post-modernist aesthetics in computer animation

Edited by Jayne Pilling John Libbey Publishing ePub

 

This paper is concerned with questions of aesthetic form. It is about the relationship between computer imaging and the emergence of a new aesthetics of self – referentiality and surface play. I want to indicate some ways in which such an aesthetic is occurring, and attempt to locate and describe some of its defining characteristics and forms.

I shall do this by examining the short film Red’s Dream (1987) – a computer animation from the domain of popular entertainment. This film is an example of what I call secondary or second-order realism; that is to say, it involves an attempt to produce old ways of seeing or representing by other means. There are two main points.

The first point is that the film displays unprecedented forms of imagery, which involves something more than the simple fact that a new technique or process of image origination has been used in the production of the film. In other words, the new technique of digital imaging does not produce these new forms of image – discussed in what follows – all by itself. What is being attempted with this new means involves particular kinds of contact with already established aesthetic conventions and forms.

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Medium 9781864620009

The thief of Buena Vista

Edited by Jayne Pilling John Libbey Publishing ePub

 

We begin with a true story, but one so dense with stories within its stories, so layered with conflicting versions of the truth, that it seems to have garnered the narrational generative capacities of myth. It would take a modern Sheherezade far more than a thousand-and-one nights to unravel the complex skein of fact and fiction that surrounds the ur-narrative of the Gulf War of 1990. But that is not the purpose of this essay: here we are concerned with tracing how that vast story-cycle of fact is entangled with another story, the fictional film Aladdin, which is itself enmeshed in a dense mesh of true stories and tall tales, a whole discourse of ideas about the Middle East and about ‘Otherness’.

Once upon a time, not too long ago, relations between Islamic states in the Middle East were fraught with political tensions. Meanwhile, in a land called Buena Vista, far to the West, some artists constructed a film set in a Middle East that looked very different from the one people saw on the news. The land they painted was filled with magic and fantasy, while the other was filled with strife and anger. This paper concerns what enabled two such contradictory visions of the Middle East to manifest themselves.

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Medium 9781864620009

The Quay brothers’ The Epic of Gilgamesh and the ‘metaphysics of obscenity’

Edited by Jayne Pilling John Libbey Publishing ePub

 

The puppet animators Stephen and Timothy Quay, with producer Keith Griffiths, form the Atelier Koninck. Their first film, Nocturna Artificialia (1979), a single-puppet film and Ein Brudermord, a two-puppet film based on Kafka, were both heavily atmospheric. The Atelier then made a paper-puppet satire on Stravinsky and a film about the Flemish playwright De Ghelderode. Then followed three art documentaries, for which the Quays made puppet-animated inserts, on Punch and Judy, Janacek and Jan Svankmajer. Songs of the Chief of the Officers of Hunar Louse or This Unnameable Little Broom (1985) (called Gilgamesh for short), a film in which a moronic toddler traps a flying man/insect with a woman-table, changed the direction of their films by fusing puppetry to sexual psychopathology.

© Atelier Koninck

Brothers Stephen Quay (left) and Timothy Quay (right), puppet animators who, with producer Keith Griffiths, created their version of The Epic of Gilgamesh (1985)

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