Cartoons: No Laughing Matter?

Cartoons: No Laughing Matter?

2.5 out of 5 2.5 out of 5 2.5 out of 5 2.5 out of 5 2.5

Comments Comments (0)

Film Forum has compiled a program of eight tales from the dark side where the giggles are as scarce as desert water. What’s unique about these films is their novel artistic methods and reinventions of familiar styles, except only a few assume the ethical busywork of their precursors. Suzan Pitt’s El Doctor is a Ralph Bakshi-style perversion with a south-of-the-border twist; spiked with references to Mexican art and paintings so obscure only a press kit can explicate them, the short is grandiose but emotionally detached. Suzie Templeton’s Dog comes on impossibly strong: The characters—a father and son coping with a mother’s death, the dog caught between them—look as if they’re diseased, and a last-minute act of mercy doesn’t transcend its shock value. It Pains Me to Say This is the cartoon Woody Allen might make if were into the medium: Director George Griffin deals with anger, language, women, and cultural warfare, scrutinizing the whole soupy mess right down to the very last pixel. Everybody’s Pregnant and The Back Brace are equally self-absorbed but feel as if they did a body good; in the former, director Debra Solomon copes with her infertility nightmare through song (the lyrics barely rhyme but who cares with lines like “He went inside and found a box of Tide”?), and Andy London uses the latter to exorcise the nightmare of his adolescent years during which his parents forced him to wear a back brace. Chris Shepherd and David Shrigley’s Who I Am and What I Want, a snapshot of a once-overmedicated man who lives in the forest, suggests a different kind of therapy; the short’s power is mainly derived from the audience’s relief that the filmmakers directed their anxieties into their animation and not at other people. Son of Satan, adapted from a Charles Bukowski story, has a chilling visceral power—gross and threatening like a whitehead ready to pop; director JJ Villard bluntly conveys how an act of bullying becomes a point-of-no-return nightmare, locating the context for the horrible crisis in the ugliness of his milieu and the faces of his characters. But it is The Flooded Playground that reigns supreme: An eerie mix of styles—stop motion, cutout, drawn, and digital—and temporal cadences, this fairy tale about a baby doll’s crisscrossing nightmares and waking life feels like a distillation of Svankmajer, Lynch, Polanski, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s wildest dreams. It’s not funny but it might take your breath away.

Runtime
87 min
Rating
NR
Year
2006
Director
Lisa Crafts, George Griffin, Andy London, Carolyn London, Suzan Pitt, Chris Shepherd, David Shrigley, Debra Solomon, Suzie Templeton, JJ Villard
Screenwriter
Lisa Crafts, George Griffin, Andy London, Carolyn London, Suzan Pitt, Chris Shepherd, David Shrigley, Debra Solomon, Suzie Templeton, JJ Villard