Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘film’

01 DECEMBER, 2011

Spiderman-Like Folk Hero Taunts the Nazis in 1945 Czech Animation

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What a mischievous chimney sweep has to do with tricking Hitler out of power.

To those of us who grew up in Eastern Europe, Czech puppet maker, illustrator, and animator Jirí Trnka (1912-1969) is best-known for his illustrations of the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm (recently included in Taschen’s epic volume collecting the best illustrations from 130 years of the Brothers Grimm). In fact, he came of age as a children’s book artist during World War II, when he illustrated books for children and eventually started dabbling in animation. In 1945, just as the war was winding down, he began working on Perak a SS (The Springer and the SS Men, or Springman and the SS, or The Jumper and the Men of the SS) — an animated anti-Nazi film, based on a WWII urban legend about a mischievous chimney-sweep-turned-superhero who taunts the Nazis, reminiscent in both appearance and action of an early Spiderman.

Trnka went on to have a prolific career in experimental animation, creating some astounding and brilliantly innovative, not only for their time but also by today’s standards, puppet films.

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30 NOVEMBER, 2011

The Hare and the Tortoise: 1947 Dramatization with Live Animals

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Slow and steady wins the race… or does it?

From Encyclopedia Britannica Films — the same folks who brought us this fantastic manifesto for the spirit of journalism (1940), a vintage lesson in democracy and despotism (1945), and a drug addiction PSA explaining how different drugs work (1951) — comes this 1947 dramatization of Aesop’s iconic fable, The Hare and the Tortoise, featuring live animals. A menagerie cast, including an owl, a fox, a goose, a rooster, a raccoon, and a rabbit, reenacts the famously ambiguous moral story in a narrative that’s so boring and redundant it quickly becomes comic, a piece of inadvertent, almost Seinfeld-like vintage comedy. But what makes the film curious is that while the Aesop classic leaves the question of how the tortoise beat the hare unanswered, inviting centuries of interpretation, here a very specific, seemingly plausible answer for what happened is given.

The film is in the public domain and available for free, legal download courtesy of the Prelinger Archives.

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30 NOVEMBER, 2011

Oscar Wilde: The Rise & Fall of the 20th Century’s First Pop Celebrity

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‘He had a musician’s sense of a sentence.’

111 years ago today, the world lost the great Oscar Wilde — poet, playwright, action figure. This fascinating 1997 documentary from Omnibus traces Wilde’s life, loves, and legacy, from his intellectual upbringing to his infamous imprisonment at the height of his fame and success for “for gross indecency with other men” — basically, for being gay and out in Victorian England — to his exile and untimely death. The film features cameos from Stephen Fry, who played Wilde in the film of the same title, Pet Shop Boys’ Neil Tennant, and prolific British playwright Tom Stoppard, who explore what made Wilde the 20th century’s first true pop celebrity.

He had perfect pitch, perfect touch. He had a musician’s sense of a sentence.”

[Prison] was where Oscar discovered that life does not imitate art, and that the reality of a prison sentence was miles away from the ivory towers of martyrdom he had previously assumed it to be.”

For a proper Oscar Wilde remembrance, you won’t go wrong with The Happy Prince and Other Tales and, of course, The Importance of Being Earnest. (Which, for some almost sacrilegious reason, is going for just $1.50, it seems.)

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