This week at Barbican: Animator Bretislav Pojar
I sort of have a feeling that East European animation is trendy nowadays, esp. when you think of a number of screenings in the West that you can attend recently. I’m not saying it’s bad. Actually, completely the opposite. And even though Poland or Czech Republic are geographically much closer to the UK than let’s say Japan or Australia, these countries are still considered a bit exotic, me thinks. Sure, we all know the historic background attached to such view… (and if not, Google it, please or go to the nearest library… before it’s shut forever… 😉 )
Anyway, speaking of Czech Republic… This week on Tuesday, there was a nice screening organised by Barbican with a Q&A session afterwards led by acclaimed Clare Kitson. She was once a speaker guest at ReAnimacja festival, that I used to co-organise, so I had a pleasure to meet her and work with her on a part of the festival programme. And despite the fact I didn’t have a chance to talk to her this time, it was good to see this very fine lady in action again.
Bretislav Pojar (check this link for a few other useful links too!), as he was the one the screening was dedicated to, is a Czech animator, puppeteer and director of animated shorts and features. He was a close colleague of Jiri Trnka and he worked on a number of his films. Although his professional connection to Trnka is indisputable, Pojar himself stresses the difference between the films of the two animators and doesn’t really want to look at his own productions through the prism of Trnka’s. Enough to say Trnka was above all a painter, while Pojar – as he says – already knew the language of film as well as was very much inspired by Italian neorealism when he started making his own shorts. He thinks animation is similar to hypnotism: When someone isn’t much of an animator, the puppet moves. When he is good, the puppet lives his life like each of us.
Pojar’s films screened at Barbican gave an overview of changes in the animator’s style as they were presented chronologically. I cannot find any of them online, so am not able to show you any of them either. However, this makes my Tuesday evening even more special and I’m really happy for… myself! 😉 Anyway, it’s really amazing how I can admire basically all of the films shown at the screening (well, maybe apart from one…) and don’t know which to choose to describe here! Especially that I think I am a very picky person…
I guess I’ll go with all of them, one by one then 😉 So, first of all, I didn’t like A Drop Too Much (1953) shown as the first from the queue. It was sort of light and witty and it’s a good thing. But it was also an educational film about tragic consequences of combining drinking and driving (or rather riding as we’re actually talking here about riding a motorcycle). Too moralistic in its overall message and I didn’t find the year of production to be a good excuse.
I loved The Lion and the Song from 1959 that was awarded, among others, Grand Prix at 1960 Annecy festival. A story of travelling harlequin that faces a lion in the desert. It’s said to be an allegory for the struggle of art against power but for some reason the film didn’t have any censorship problems at the time of release. As Pojar admitted at the Q&A session, the problems started after the release of his next film, Bomb Mania, and it had its effect on The Lion and the Song rather retrospectively.
A Few Words of Introduction from (1962) is a great pastiche on the way natural born speech makers consider themselves, prepare their speeches but also the way they THINK their listeners appreciate their words. And not much more matters than keeping the appearances. How current is that, ha? And how current is the way Pojar shows a coquettish young lady looking for love and/or money who is finally left with nothing? Oh, as a matter of fact she’s left with a puppy that somehow had not found a replacement for her charms while she was gone and chasing whatever she was actually looking for. And that was Romance from 1962.
Darwin/Anti-Darwin or What the Rain Worm Didn’t Suspect is a cut-out animation from 1969. Although Pojar’s films are mainly animated with puppets, this one proves that if you have a good idea for a story, you can use whatever technique you want and the film will be good anyway. It’s a funny idea of a worm evolving into a human and then… wishes it hadn’t 🙂 Another funny thing is that this film, as Pojar said, did not have problems with censorship either. Perhaps as the censors didn’t know who Darwin was.
And last but not least – Nightangel made in 1986. Ladies and Gentlemen, this film is very interesting for a couple of reasons. First of all, it’s a story of a blind man in which Pojar shows us the way the main character experiences his very own reality. Secondly, the film combines two techniques: puppets and pinscreen, while adding colour to the latter (new thing at the time of production). All that creates a film that is hard to forget.
Below, you can find one of Pojar’s shorts that is actually not puppet animation at all. It’s funny though and that’s the reason for me presenting it to you.