More Svankmajer, more Snow 28/40

March 20, 2007 at 7:21 am | Posted in Alps, Film | 2 Comments
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I took out another Svankmajer movie, this time real, um, Fetish stuff. Spiklenciu slasti (1996), or: Conspirators of Pleasure. Although not the types of fetishes that you’d expect in fetish movie. No S/M, no bodily fluids, no intercourse. No dialog either, which is probably the most remarkable part of it. There is not point in me giving you a plot synopsis, but I’d like to mention some plot landmarks: The killing of a chicken, the reconstruction of a chicken mask from porn magazines and feathers, the theft of fox fur, physical treatment with a rolling pin, television, carp fish, bread crumbs and breathing techniques. Some scenes are very Cronenbergian, in particular the television plot line which is often reminiscent of Videodrome (1983).

And as is typical for Svankmajer, it also has some really cool animation stuff in it, for instance stop and go motion with live characters who seem to be sliding across the floor. I like that a lot. The only thing that began to irritate me a wee bit was the excessive use of designed sound. For instance, the modeling of a chicken head from clay is made to sound like a jurassic monster rising from the swamp. Not everybody’s cup of tea. But it’s still refreshing to see a bit of formerly Eastern European cinema (can one say that the Czech Republic has meanwhile arrived in the West?), which has a a refreshingly un-exhausted imagery to offer to the Western eye. Some screenshots:

Conspirators of Pleasure

Conspirators of Pleasure

Conspirators of Pleasure

Turning to the weather department: Two weeks ago I had proclaimed the arrival of spring in the far West of Austria. How wrong I was! The snow we’ve been missing for most of the winter has now come down on us. The windows of my attic flat are completely snowed in, and snow keeps falling. And that two days before the official 1st day of spring! Astronomically, spring begins on the 19th to 22nd of March, with the spring equinox (Tagundnachtgleiche in German): that’s when the sun aligns with the equator and day and night are of the same length (the day during equinox is actually 14 minutes longer, Wikipedia tells me). This year, 2007, spring will begin on the 21st of March, 7 minutes past midnight (Coordinated Universal Time, 1:07 Central European Time). If the weather stays like this until and into the weekend, I’ll finally get on the train to see the Arlberg, considering that I live ‘vor’m Arlberg’ (in front of the Arlberg). And I doubt that I’ll ever live this close to the Arlberg again.

Here’s a shot taken from my French Balcony. Freshest finest snow! What I liked to do in the past was to fetch some snow, directly and fresh from the roof, put it in a bowl and top it with some fruit syrup – and there goes your fruit sorbet. But I won’t break Lent just for a bit of sweetened snow! Although last night, in my dream, I did it again: I secretly ate chocolate, deciding that one didn’t count:-x

Snow

Otesánek (Little Otik) 20/40

March 12, 2007 at 7:56 am | Posted in Film, Food, Lent | 5 Comments
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I had a very nice week-end, movie-wise. I saw Asoka (India 2001), The Great dictator (USA, 1940) and Otesánek (Little Otik) (Czech Republic, 2000), which was really the one that took the cake. It’s a partly real, partly hand-animated film by surreal director Jan Svankmajer, based on the fairy tale of Otesánek, a root, dug up by a poor worker and made into a doll, as a substitute for the child he and his wife couldn’t afford. But then Otesánek begins to grow and to eat everyone and everything in its way…

In Svankmajer’s film, the Otesánek theme is nicely combined with the story of an infertile couple’s desperate wish for a child where just about anything around them begins to transform into a baby.

Otesánek

The root, originally intended by the husband as a gift to distract his wife a bit, is greeted with such excitement by her that she refuses to ever let go of it again – Veronika Zilkova offering a worrying rendition of a woman sliding into a state of mental disorder.

Otesánek

Otesánek

Otesánek

To be able to welcome the root as her proper child, she stuffs her clothes, beginning to confuse her own acting up with an actual pregnancy. When she ‘gets into labour’, she has her husband drive her to the their garden shed where she keeps the root. He leaves her there, and when he returns, the root has come strangely to life….

Otesánek

Later it will develop the same appetite as the Otesánek from the fairy tale – no spoilers, but just a glimpse of what the story has in stall for the viewer:

Otesánek

LentAnd just to explain the countdown: Yes, I am still participating in Lent – now that I’ve halfway made it, I might as well go all to the end. But no point in a daily Lent message really – Lent still sucks and actually makes me occasionally feel sick. I suppose my body misses the daily early sugar ingestion the most – low blood sugar levels make me feel dizzy. And there goes my Lent message, even though I thought not to have one.

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