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Film Review: 85a present Jan Svankmajer

Missy Lorelei finds much to love about the collaboration recently seen for Glasgow Film Festival 2012.

The appeal of Czech animator/filmmaker Jan Svankmajer lies in the blurring of distinctions and uneasy paradox: the beauty/horror of nature; the innocence/cruelty of childhood--something akin to examining little boys cutting up worms to see if they still wriggle.

So who better to present this unique night of Svankmajer’s shorts as part of the Glasgow Film Festival than the difficult to pigeonhole art collective 85a? It is a perfect match.

The Glue Factory space is utilised in the most innovative way possible: secret films are served up on a platter (literally) in a cafe area, along with raw sausage and offal; cabinets of curios litter the corridors, a murder of crows promenade in a line, lurking and ominous like the portentous subject matter in Svankmajer’s oeuvre.

The films themselves are as eccentric and darkly humorous as expected: JS Bach- Fantasy in G Minor and A Game with Stones (both 1965) are experimental studies in sound and texture, whereas The Flat (1968) and The Ossuary (1970) present nightmarish visions of relentless struggle and mortality, evoking early Bunuel and Kafka with a clear Gothic noir aesthetic.

Accompanying Historia Naturae a typically mordant nature study of monkeys, ducks etc both living and dead, is Spudd, an avant-noise filmmaker who provides an eerie keyboard soundscape.

I am developing a girl crush on Louna, I have to confess. The performance artist duo, dressed like Alice with wigs which looked like they have been hacked at by a little girl (details!) and torn Victorian gowns are a rum pair and no mistake...a ramshackle naughtiness runs through all that they do...God, I love them. Spanking and screaming, fighting, stuffing their faces with marshmallows they recite The Jabberwocky which culminates in said “beast’ being slayed--you can always guarantee at least one letting of blood in a Louna performance.

All in all, a brilliant event combining immersive theatre, animation film and anarchy... Svankmajer himself would be proud.

What’s not to love? Czech please.

85a Present...Jan Svankmajer was part of the Glasgow Film Festival 2012. It has completed its run.

Tags: cinema

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