Wednesday, 16 November 2011

DepicT!

ENCOUNTERS INTERNATIONAL SHORT FILM FESTIVAL
JOHN K.
RALPH BAKSHI

I'm heading down to Encounters International Short Film Festival this week, where I have an ultra-short film screening. It's called Experiments in Parahypnosis and it’s short-listed for DepicT!'11. The film will screen as part of the DepicT! showcase in Bristol this Saturday 19th November (3pm, Watershed Cinema 1, if you're in the hood). It's one of 14 films which are up for the DepicT! Award and the DepicT! British Special Mention Award. You can watch it here. Please rate it too, as I'll also be in the running for the Shooting People Audience Award. If you want to know more about the film, here’s a short interview. And if you want to see Bananarama sing Cruel Summer, click here.

Apart from shitting my pants about the screening, I'm really looking forward to seeing Canadian animation genius John Kricfalusi at Encounters. ‘John K.’ is the founder of Spumco and creator of The Ren and Stimpy Show. I'm pretty sure Ren and Stimpy had a warping influence on my childhood and re-watching episodes some years later produced a trigger-like effect, the long-term psychological impact of which is not yet known. It's blend of psychodrama, slapstick
 and an almost unbearable emotional intensity hits me in the gut every time. The animation is as beautiful as it is grotesque and however weird the stories get they’re grounded by a love that dare not speak it’s name (between a physically and psychologically abusive chihuahua and a remarkably stupid cat). One of my favourite parts of the show was always when Ren, pushed to the limit, would undergo a psychotic breakdown and completely lose his shit. If cartoon characters were eligible for Oscars, Ren Hoek would have one in the bag:


Anyway, where am I going with this? Bakshi, that’s where. I was excited to recently discover John K. had a connection to another innovator in the field whose work I admire: Ralph Bakshi. 
John K. was instrumental in the writing, directing and animating of Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures, made in 1987. Mighty Mouse was helmed by said Bakshi, who has had a fascinating career in alternative animation and film. He also made one of my favourite animated features: a stunning, incomplete version of The Lord of the Rings (1978). More mysterious and scary than Peter Jackson's trilogy and a lot weirder. This is in part due to his extensive use of rotoscoping in the film, a technique whereby live action footage is animated over, frame by frame. Here's an amusing early example of rotoscoping in this Betty Boop hula dance, which is so intensely erotic that a nearby flower is compelled to commit suicide during Betty’s final few hip swings. Sad, but true.

Bakshi used the technique in some of the major battle scenes in LOTR (quite different to sexy hula dancing, I know). But the scenes with the Dark Riders (or what Tolkeinista’s would call ‘the Nazgul’) are electrifying, and utilise rotoscoping to chilling effect. In particular, a sequence where Frodo and the gang, not long clear of the Shire, hide from the rider that’s tailing them is particularly creepy. Plus, horses always look scary with red eyes.




Bakshi and John K. faced similarly grim fates with the studios that commissioned their shows; both were fired in controversial circumstances. John K.’s incident allegedly involved an episode where Ren violently assaults the George Liquor character with an oar, one smack too many for Nickelodeon. Bakshi got into trouble when an episode of Mighty Mouse (featuring a scene where our hero snorts the crushed petals of a flower) ignited a shit-storm in Middle America. In Bakshi’s defence, the flower was not of the narcotic variety.

So, a couple of edgy sketchers who push the limits of their art and craft. I leave you with this insane video for Bjork’s I Miss You, directed by John K. Mark the condom boob suckers. 

2 comments:

  1. Bakshi also made a film called "Wizards" as a test bed for techniques to be used in his LotRs. It's extremely odd and features footage from WW2!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YjSFujG6Uhg

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  2. Wizards is high on my 'to see' list. I've seen a few bits, like the sexy fairies. Looks pretty mind-bending!

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