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Czech Filmmaker Jan Svankmajer Retrospective in Wired Magazine

By: Luke Gilman | Other Posts by
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Jason Silverman has a great article on the great Czech animator and filmmaker Jan Svankmajer in yesterday’s Wired – The Best Auteur You Never Saw. (photos)Is he as unknown as Silverman seems to think? I suppose. When I was there Emerson’s film program had an exchange program in Prague. The connection made Czech filmmakers minor celebrities in that circle. Svankmajer himself was a demigod, a mad genius whose technical virtuosity and arch-symbolism laden with 60′s intellectual fervor was the stuff of film students dreams. Svankmajer’s Collected Short Films is among the most prized in my DVD collection. While the overt communist-era politics of Svankmajer’s earlier work seems a bit dated and his gruff predeliction for disembodied carnality will offend the sensibilities of many if not most, the animations still retain an edginess and vitality the work of most of his contemporaries lost long ago.

Svankmajer has spent much of the past 40 years working in the relative cinematic obscurity of Prague, his hometown, where he has handcrafted 32 wondrously bizarre, funny and deeply disturbing films. Though he remains the most anonymous of the world’s essential filmmakers, Svankmajer’s also one of the more influential: Tim Burton, Terry Gilliam, Jean-Pierre Jeunet and David Cronenberg are all students of what might be called the Svankmajer School of the Grotesque.

Svankmajer’s films, which combine stop-motion animation with live action, are fearless, nightmarish, hilarious and terrifying, sometimes all at once. He’s been compared to Kafka, Lewis Carroll and Disney, and, in a 1994 New Yorker profile, described as “the last great obsessive in cinema — the end of a distinguished line that goes back to Orson Welles, Luis Buñuel and Carl Theodor Dreyer.”

Darkness/Light/Darkness (1989)

Trailer to Lunacy (2006)
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Category: art & artists, film & television

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