Brain Pickings

Let’s Dance: A Stop-Motion Homage to Modern Love

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What the evolution of cinema has to do with sexuality and storytellers’ moral responsibility.

We’re continuously fascinated by the trial and tribulations of modern romance. Last month, we swooned over You Deserve a Medal, designer Stefan G. Bucher’s lovely homage to the feats of modern love. Today, we’re thrilled to reveal, in a Brain Pickings exclusive — a beautiful short film about that very subject by director John Thompson and producer Sharon Lee, blending 2D cutouts with 3D live-action in a wonderfully playful visual narrative to use dance as a metaphor for, erm, the ultimate act of intimacy.

We sat down with John to chat about the inspiration behind the film, the visual language of romance, and storytellers’ responsibility about framing the cultural expectations for love.

q1

How did the dance metaphor come about?

That was the brainchild of writer/producer Sharon Lee. When she called me about the project, she had the basics figured out: A creative short film about a relationship dealing with modern challenges, and dance would be the metaphor for love and sex. Dance has a long history in literature and film for symbolizing human ecstasy, both the sacred and physical.

From Shakespeare to the modern YouTube dance videos, human rhythmic movement connects us in a primal way.

I absolutely loved that concept and instantly jumped on board.

q2

Filmmakers have been infatuated with the visual language of romance since the dawn of cinema. How are today’s cinematic techniques, styles and vehicles different from what came before in painting intimacy?

For me, the thing that is so exciting about cinema is the way it has continued to evolve. Technology, trends, experimentation and style are always changing, affecting one another, ultimately having a great impact on the story of the film.

After exploring various approaches to our film, we decided to shoot stop-motion hand-held with actors in a simplified world made of grey paper. Since we were telling people a story they already knew, it was important to tell it in a new way stylistically. The tone of the piece kept a nice balance between humor and sincerity, which was something Sharon and I always wanted.

q3

Do you think storytellers have a certain responsibility in terms of conveying the normative expectations of romance and, if so, what does modern romance mean to you as a storyteller and creator?

Personally, I think an artist’s only responsibility is to follow his or her voice. I don’t think you go anywhere really meaningful unless you go deeply personal and highly instinctual, and that can’t be any truer than when dealing with relationships.

‘Modern romance’ sounds like an oxymoron. To me, the guts of love are timeless, and it is the world changing around it.

As a filmmaker, I wanted to break into those timeless basics by stripping down the world in our film to the bare essentials, but it was also a balancing act to accurately represent current challenges in relationships to give the piece an entry point for the audience.

But at the end of the day, the guide for me was my personal experiences; the love and the heartache.

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Viliam: Slovakian Short Film about Happiness & Delusion

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We love doodling, paper-cutout art and stop-motion, and have a soft spot for Eastern Europe. Naturally, we’re all over Viliam — an absolutely wonderful stop-motion, paper-cutout short film by Slovakian animator Veronika Obertová.

The film tells the story of a boy who develops an obsession with doodling. After losing his parents to a tragic accident, Viliam escapes from reality by drawing his own animated world.

Part Flatland, part Lars and the Real Girl, Viliam poses, poetically, one of life’s greatest questions: Are we empowered architects of our own happiness or misguided slaves to our own delusion? And, more importantly, does it really matter which it is?

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A Rare Archive: The Lost Beatles Photographs

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Last year, we swooned over Nowhere Boy, the lovely documentary about John Lennon’s little-known early life. This month, rock historian Larry Marion furthers our obsession with knowing the unknown Beatles in The Lost Beatles Photographs: The Bob Bonis Archive, 1964-1966 — a rare and revealing look at the iconic band through a series of intimate, never-before-seen photographs taken during The Beatles’ three U.S. tours.

The photos were taken by The Fab Four’s tour manager, Bob Bonis, who carried his Leica M3 camera everywhere, capturing pockets of wonderfully candid private moments tucked beneath the band’s overscheduled, overexposed public selves.

In 1964, The Beatles boarded their charter jet at Seattle-Tacoma airport, heading to Vancouver for their first-ever Canadian concert, and the fourth in their first American tour, at the Empire Stadium on August 22.

Image courtesy of NPR / 2269 Productions, Inc. / NotFadeAwayGallery.com

George Harrison and Ringo Starr get ready to go onstage in Detroit on August 13, 1966

Image courtesy of NPR / 2269 Productions, Inc. / NotFadeAwayGallery.com

George Harrison and John Lennon at Busch Memorial Stadium in St. Louis, August 21, 1966

Image courtesy of NPR / 2269 Productions, Inc. / NotFadeAwayGallery.com

George Harrison tunes up backstage at Philadelphia's JFK Stadium on August 16, 1966, in what was the first concert to ever be held at the now-iconic venue

Image courtesy of NPR / 2269 Productions, Inc. / NotFadeAwayGallery.com

Ringo plays with a toy gun -- allegedly a gift from Elvis Presley -- during The Beatles' stay at British actor Reginald Owen's Bel Air mansion in Los Angeles while on their 1964 U.S. tour

Image courtesy of NPR / 2269 Productions, Inc. / NotFadeAwayGallery.com

While on stage at Bloomington's Metropolitan Stadium on August 12, 1965, George Harrison turns around to face Bonis and gives him a warm thumbs-up

Image courtesy of NPR / 2269 Productions, Inc. / NotFadeAwayGallery.com

The Beatles begin the last tour they'd ever go on in Detroit, August 13, 1966

Image courtesy of NPR / 2269 Productions, Inc. / NotFadeAwayGallery.com

John Lennon in Portland, Oregon, on August 22, 1965

Image courtesy of NPR / 2269 Productions, Inc. / NotFadeAwayGallery.com

After the Vancouver shows, The Beatles flew to Los Angeles, only to find their reservation cancelled when the Ambassador Hotel was overrun by Beatlemaniacs. British actor Reginald Owen stepped in, offering them his Bel Air mansion for $1,000

Image courtesy of NPR / 2269 Productions, Inc. / NotFadeAwayGallery.com

Bonis, a man of honor and loyalty, felt wrong about capitalizing on his unprecedented access, so for 40 years his photos remained a rare treat for his friends and family only. He passed away in 1992, and almost two decades later, his son Alex decided it was time to share his father’s collection with the thousands of Beatles fans around the world in The Lost Beatles Photographs. We’re glad he did.

via NPR

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Underwater Sculptures Help Corals Thrive

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What metal sculptures have to do with your DNA and the future of the world’s oceans.

In 2009, underwater sculptor Jason de Caires Taylor — whom we had the pleasure of profiling for Wired UK a long, long time ago — founded MUSA (Museo Subacuático de Arte), the world’s first underwater museum and an inspired intersection of art and environmental science. These artworks, admired by over 750,000 visitors every year, are designed to become artificial reefs that provide a unique habitat for the ocean’s most fragile and remarkable creatures: Corals, and their many marine companions.

This year, artist and TED fellow Colleen Flanigan was invited to join the project with some of her Biorock designs. As the temperature and acidity of the world’s oceans continue to rise under the effects of global warming, these new sculptures offer corals a vital alkaline environment: Using a low-voltage electrical current, the installations raise the pH of seawater to attract limestone minerals, which adhere to the metal matrix and help corals get the calcium carbonate they need to build their exoskeletons. So Colleen is gathering the necessary arsenal — welding equipment, metal, supplies, power sources, boat rentals, SCUBA tanks — and hiring a professional filmmaker to capture the incredible journey. And she’s funding it on Kickstarter, our favorite platform for microfunding creative projects.

Corals are near the root of the family tree of all living animals. Humans have put these ancestors on the evolutionary tree in peril. We want to give coral back its color through life-supporting underwater Biorock formations.” ~ Colleen Flanigan

The project embodies our highest ideals, a beautiful cross-pollination of art, science and moral imagination, so please join us in supporting it — it’s the best-intentioned $10 (or $100, or $1000) you’ll spend today, we promise.

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