Svankmajer & the Brothers Quay: wonderfully weird animation

Let’s start the week with some wonderful weirdness (start as you mean to go on, after all). John Cusack, guest blogging on BoingBoing, celebrate the work of the ‘Prague alchemist of film’, Jan Svankmajer, a truly remarkable, artist who has been one of my favourite animators for many years. From Cusack’s post: ” They call Svankmajer a surrealist, but his visions make as much sense to me as escalators or velcro. It’s hyperreality, and after all, it exists because he made it, so there it is —just like styrofoam and Fresca. Absurdism is the logical extension of the truth— or of current trends. Surrealism is true becouse it unearthers the subconscious, the stuff of fever dreams and fractured memory. It exists if one has the guts or madness to bring it to be… ( combine Surrealism and Absurdism and mix it with Dada, you get the Sex Pistols).”

(a clip from Svankmajer’s Alice in Wonderland)

I’ve been in love with the cinema of Svankmajer for a couple of decades – like Cusack I can’t remember where I first saw his work, probably a short piece somewhere, but it got under the skin and into the brain, seeping, trickling, dripping slowly into the subconcious where it lived and moved, casting strange shadows on the screen of the mind… I sought out his feature works in the arthouse cinemas and anywhere else I could find them – and as Cusack notes in his article, one of the wonderful things about today is that you can now find huge amounts of his work easily online through YouTube. When I first found Svankmajer’s works I had to look about arthouse cinemas for a screening or a retrospective at a film fest, now you can go and explore it whenever you want – god, sometimes I love the web… His work is fascinating; often mixing live action with various forms of animation; it can be funny, it can be creepy, it can be downright disturbing, combining the seemingly everyday then watching the unusual, the odd, the downright weird and surreal bleeding through that everyday, a world where logic can melt and flow like a Dali timepiece.

And since I’m on a Svankmajer kick, here’s a clip from Dimensions of Dialogue, which many of you have quite probably seen a bit of without knowing who it was by as it has been used frequently in a number of programmes over the years and spawned countless imitators:

As with all the most interesting artists in any medium I’ve found developing a fascination with one artist has lead me to others that I might never have come across otherwise, which is one of the remarkable qualities of any good art, be it animation, comics, books, music, film, you never take it in isolation, other works you’ve seen feed into your experience of the new work and the new work sparks ideas and images in your imagination that lead you on paths to other works and those lead you to more… Here’s the Brothers Quay (huge admirers of Svankmajer) with their famous Street of Crocodiles:

and part 2:

Considering how easy it is to find some of this work nowaday you owe it yourself to go exploring for more – especially if you love work by people like Tim Burton or Edward Gorey or Neil Gaiman, or you devoured the disturbingly weird old Doom Patrol strips. Go look; if you haven’t seen them before, you’ll thank me later, if you have seen them you’ll be delighted to find it is so simple to rewatch them now. And you’ll have strange dreams…