Sunday, May 15, 2005

The Puppet Films of Jiri Trnka



1951, Dir. Milos Makovec , Jirí Trnka ,
156 min., color animation

Every child should be raised on honest-to-goodness, old-fashioned stop-motion animation, and Trnka, who died in 1969 at the age of 57, was an innovator whose films create rich settings for moving, delightfully playful stories. This DVD collection includes The Emperor's Nightingale (1951, 67 min.), based on Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale and narrated by Boris Karloff. Short Subjects: Story of the Bass Cello (13 min.), The Song of the Prairie (21 min.), The Merry Circus (11 min.), A Drop Too Much (14 min.), The Hand (18 min.), Jiri Trnka: Puppet Animation Master (Documentary, 12 min.)

My children's favorite is The Hand, a political story of an artist whose studio is invaded by a giant hand that directs him to make a statue of it and abandon the clay pots he's been making for his plant. To an adult this piece has frightening resonance, and it does end with the artist's death, so your mileage may vary with respect to the kids' reaction. The Emperor's Nightingale is beautiful and effective. The Merry Circus uses stop-motion mixed with flat posable characters that cast shadows. My favorite, Story of the Bass Cello, has chiaroscuro lighting and a contemplative atmosphere. My only complaint about the bonus feature, a documentary about Jiri Trnka, is that it's much too short.

Potentially for all ages; but note that A Drop Too Much is about drinking and driving, and The Song of the Prairie, a hilarious send-up of westerns, involves gun play amid much Nelson Eddy-style singing.

2 comments:

Nursing Home Furniture said...

Problem is a lot of the older kids programs are quite sinister looking. The modern stuff is much more child friendly despite being less imaginative.

red eft said...

Hm..."modern stuff" throws too wide a net for me to comment, but vis-a-vis Trnka, my children, who at 8 & 10 remain very particular about what they see—and were more so when they first saw Trnka—found most of the shorts on this CD compelling and some of them downright delightful. The child friendly, I would say, and one of the most artful in this collection, is The Emperor's Nightingale.