Saturday, April 30, 2022

Sándor Reisenbüchler - Barbárok Ideje (1970)


"This article examines the work of the Hungarian collage animator Sándor Reisenbüchler, whose career lasted from the mid-1960s until his death in 2004. It poses theoretical questions concerning the concept of an animation Esperanto, pivoting off Béla Balázs’s early theories of an international film language. Through close studies of two of his films, the author claims that Reisenbüchler develops an animation Esperanto through his construction of landscapes, a significant break from an animation tradition that develops an Esperanto through the body. The article ties Reisenbüchler’s animated Esperanto to his globalist, transcendental politics and situates him within the context of Hungary’s socialist system. Finally, the article places Reisenbüchler’s work in the context of Pannonia, the major animation studio in Hungary, to which he was affiliated throughout his career. The films of Marcell Jankovics, Hungary’s most famous animator, suggest a more complicated reading of the interactions between the body and the landscape in the animated Esperanto. In conclusion, the author posits a possible dialectic between internationalism and globalism within the animated Esperanto, and applies this dialectic to Balázs’s initial conception of the international film language." - Paul Morton

Sunday, March 6, 2022

Zbigniew Rybczyński - Tango / Pol / Hell in Paradise / Imagine



"Rybczyński was born in Łódź in 1949. He finished an art high school in Warsaw. After graduation, Rybczyński worked in the Studio Miniatur Filmowych...  As a member of the vanguard group Warsztat Formy Filmowej, Rybczyński did the camerawork on a few etudes, features and short films...Upon graduating in 1973, Rybczyński went on to make animated films at the Se-Ma-For Study in Łódź. He spent two years in Vienna on a Polish Film contract, mostly teaching. After Tango, a film produced at Se-Ma-For, which won an Oscar in 1983, Rybczyński decided to stay and work in the US, initially making short video films and music videos commissioned by TV channels.

... In 1986 he started using High Definition, a computer-integrated system, and in 1987 opened his own studio, Zbig Vision Studio, in Hoboken near New York. Rybczyński became a highly popular maker of music videos, creating approximately 30 of them in a span of three years, including the remarkable work that became the video for John Lennon's Imagine. 

... At the time Rybczyński worked closely with the painter Miłosz Benedyktowicz, using his set design ideas. In 1992 Rybczyński, who had veered from commercial to more ambitious art, was no longer able to support the production and was forced to close his Studio.

.... In 2009, after years of working abroad, Rybczyński has decided to come back to Poland. He took up the position of the head of Drimage – 3D Animation & VFX Academy, established in association with Wyższa Szkoła Biznesu – National Louis University in Nowy Sącz. He also run a school called Wrocław Visual Technology Studios...

Film critics tend to hail Zbigniew Rybczyński the contemporary Mélies. As Marcin Giżycki wrote:

Rybczyński belongs to the line of Mélies's descendants, the cinematic craftsmen combining extraordinary plastic imagination with an aptitude for inventing and constructing, and endowed with Benedictine patience.

.... According to what he has professed in a number of interviews, Rybczyński went to study camerawork so that he could make films entirely on his own rather than relying on co-operation between the director and cameramen.... 

From 1972 onwards Rybczyński worked on his own films, notably Square, Take Five and Plamuz. These early works, in which Rybczyński experimented with the form, are characterised by the prominence of dynamic, changing abstract forms and synchronisation of the picture with the music. Soup (1974), which portrayed an ordinary daily routine presented in a way unattainable by the senses, was the first film to delineate the artistic path which Rybczyński would consistently follow in his later productions.

Rybczyński explains his artistic creed in an interview given to the film critic Tadeusz Sobolewski:

The film was invented to register the world. Yet then they noticed that if more pictures were shot and then played at a normal speed, you would see the world in a slow motion. The camera that was meant to re-create the reality began to see record much more than we do.

Rybczyński, who considers the human perception of the world limited and relative, looks for ways to find a new point of view and wants to see more, better and differently, for example a few places at one time, like in New Book, or one place at many times, like in Tango, and involves the spectator in the play with time and space. Tadeusz Sobolewski has called the trick of dividing the screen into parts, used by Rybczyński in New Book, 'the simultaneity of story-telling'. Rybczyński enhanced it further in the famous two-minute commercial of the GMF Group insurance company, showing a number of scenes of daily lives of families dwelling in a twelve-storey high-rise simultaneously, each floor symbolising a different life stage.

.... Rybczyński is fascinated with creating new worlds, his own reality: 'I want people to look at films without regarding them as imitations of the world', said Rybczyński in the above-cited interview. His role-models are Walt Disney, the creator of the cartoon reality of the world, as well as Chaplin and Lucas 'who did not imitate the reality, but enriched it'.

Rybczyński builds the world of his films in a Demiurgic manner, making creative use of archetypal motifs, clichés and pastiches of well-known works. Miłosz Benedyktowicz, a painter who worked for a few years with Rybczyński, described his work - 'What he creates is basically a manipulation of time and space. He is not much interested in reality or history of art at the moment -he borrows freely from all painting as needed'.

Rybczyński's artistic goals make him reach out far....

Frankly speaking, it would be wonderful to have a technique allowing to make paintings and whatever scenes, landscapes, props you want. To free oneself from reality, from the so-called realism, which is not realism at all. To free oneself from the realism of the circumstances existing only and exclusively at a certain place and time, for the reality is in us and not in some 'objective' world. The world exists in our imagination, in our experiences, memories, conjectures, anxieties'.

....The technological capabilities of HD provide for an integrated use of a video tape and a computer, and so the montage capabilities are huge. Rybczyński in an interview given to Maria Kornatowska in 1987:

A traditional film picture once fixed on the tape, can be modified only to a small extent and the montage combinations are limited. The electronic picture can be electronically processed to create a new reality, non-existent in front of the camera. You can make non-existent sceneries, remove people and objects from the shots and bring them in exactly where you would dream them to be. You can make all sorts of wonders, play a sorcerer.

..., The substance of animation in all of Rybczyński's films is the pre-registered reality. All of his films are about the same thing: searching for different ways of creating the film narrative, attempting to break away from the limitations of montage, sequential shots and sets and moving to one set.

...  The prominent theme of his films is usually referred to as 'travelling through life' or 'reflection on human fate', that is on the banality and inevitability of all the events from birth to death and of the death itself. Can this be reconciled with all of the prestidigitatory, technological tricks applied in his works? The answer is 'yes', for Rybczyński's art successfully bridges all such contradictions."

from Culture.Pl.

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Slavko Vorkapich - Abstract Experiment in Kodachrome (1940)


“This dazzling stop-motion animation provided Vorkapich with a forum to demonstrate complex perceptual theories related to the persistence of vision and phi phenomenon. The dance of objects and their movements before the camera lens –somewhat similar to Oskar Fischinger’s abstractions – illustrate many visual sensations playfully executed by Vorkapich.” - Bruce Posner

"As a cinematographer in Hollywood between 1920 and 1940 [Yugoslavia-born] Mr. Vorkapich worked on many early classic films, including “Prisoner of Zenda,” “Crime Without Passion,” and “Joan of Arc.” A pioneer in experimental film production, Mr. Vorkapich was an ardent advocate of using camera and sound recording equipment to stimulate emotional changes in the viewing audience. “A camera that merely records action brings nothing new,” he told his students. Early films by many of his early peers he dismissed as mere “photoplays,” in which the camera simply followed the action.The close‐up, the “cut” and special lense focusing effects—techniques he mastered—became known as Vorkapich specialties." - The New York Times, 1976 

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Musique Concrète Soundtracks To Experimental Short Films

At UbuWeb you can find the audio of Musique Concrète Soundtracks To Experimental Short Films (1956-1978). This was a precursor to Creel Pone - a series of six unofficial CD-R compilations of the electronic and tape-music soundtracks to experimental animations and films, released by the New England Electric Music Company. Many or most had never appeared as isolated audio outside their filmic context. 

Some of these films have appeared earlier on this blog. A few more are added below. 

Tom Dissevelt – Glass (1959) directed by Bert Haanstra

Gershon Kingsley – Pixillation (1971) directed by Lillian Schwartz

Percy Grainger – Free Music (1970), director unknown

Pierre Boulez – Symphonie Mechanique (1955), directed by Jean Mitry

Joan La Barbara – Dance Frame (1978), directed by Doris Chase

Bernard Parmegiani – Jeux Des Anges (1964), directed by Walerian Borowczyk

Włodzimierz Kotoński – Dom (1958), directed by Walerian Borowczyk & Jan Lenica

Pierre Henry – Les Amours De La Pleuvre (1967), directed by Jean Painlevé & Geneviève Hamon

Włodzimierz Kotoński – Labyrinthe (1963), directed by directed by Jan Lenica

Bernard Parmegiani – Steinberg (1966), directed by directed by Kassovitz

Bernard Parmegiani – L'Arraignelephant (1967), directed by Piotr Kamler

Robert Cohen-Solal – Délicieuse Catastrophe (1970), directed by Piotr Kamler

Bernard Parmegiani – Le Pas (1975), directed by Piotr Kamler

Bernard Parmegiani – L'Écran Transparent (1973), directed by Bernard Parmegiani

Here's Andy Beta's write-up of some of the earlier volumes: 

An amazing collection of crucial and lost slivers of both celluloid and sound, from right along the rim of the memory hole.

Tom Dissevelt's soundtrack to "Glas" (dir. Henstra, 1959) is almost like an Henri Chopin poem, with weird squeals and reverberating breaths and crackling radio voices intoning with dreadful menace among the cycling noises. Turns out to be about glass-blowing, go figure.

Gershon Kingsley provides a percolating soundtrack to "Pixillation" (dir. Schwartz, 1971), which shouldn't be too much a surprise for those familiar with his duo work with Perrey on The In Sound from Way Out. Very reminiscent of a coherent Sun Ra moog fugue and the most funky and taciturn of the entire set by far. 

"Free Music" from 1970, has Percy Grainger taffy-pulling some gossamer sound waves that thicken in a brief two minutes. 

The biggest name of volume one is Pierre Boulez, contributing his one and only electronic music piece to "Symphonie Mechanique" (dir. Mitry, 1956). It is an incredibly violatile magnetic tape piece that shimmers at a frentic pace, as if Raymond Scott and Xenakis are brainstorming sound ideas at the same time. 

A highlight of the set, as is Joan LaBarbara's piece. Probably more renowned as a 20th Century contemporary vocalist, along the lineage of Cathy Berberian, here she provides the pouring water, alien-lipped trills, and revolving rhythmic flutters for "Dance Frame" (dir. Chase, 1978), and it is vertiginous and brain-vaporising in its overall effect. 

The second volume brings forth two pieces by director Valerian Borowczyk, one being an historical soundtrack by Bernard Parmegiani for "Jeux des Anges" (1964). Roaring blindly with electric intrusions, it reveals itself to be the sounds of trains passing, slowing into drones of electromagnetic fields and distorted piano (or are they organ?) keys, which merge and split apart. Voices gurgle in with a percussion sound not unlike dropped microphones at the track's end. Noisy, and a very primitive bit from one of the future masters. 

Polish composer Wlodzimierz Kotonski's piece for "Dom" (1957) is flittering bits of key strikes and metallophone clops, swirling about each other with birdcall electronics. Percussion and metal scratching seeds the middle section, as more tape sounds swoop down to feast. A mysterious, melancholic, oddly reveberating horn theme joins in on the boings and gurgles to end the piece. 

With Yo La Tengo re-scoring the nature films of Jean Painleve recently, it becomes all the more crucial to hear Pierre Henry's original slithering and carbonated contribution to "Les Amours de la Pleuvre" (1964), which makes up half of Volume Three. Matching the onscreen movements of the octopus, Henry wags disturbing tentacles around the loud French narration, dropping in cavernous water drops between all the wiggling sounds, and making it all feel as clausterphobic as if you were yourself in its clutches underwater. 

Another Kotonski soundtrack, for "Labyrinthe" (dir. Lenica, 1962), ends the series. Pianos, black boughs, and looming maze walls are all set to vibrate in the shadows, along with some chilling laughter and odd chatters. The wind breathes ominously, and one cannot help but to put this in the changer next Halloween. While overall sound quality is hissy due to generational dubbing, the scope of these three volumes is of crucial historical value. If only these films could be so readily retrieved for each listen.