Animation Breakdown: Collected Shorts of Jan Svankmajer (5/17, 11pm)

Sensei to the Brothers Quay, championed as a hero by Terry Gilliam and hailed by Milos Forman as “Disney + Buñuel” – Jan Švankmajer is perhaps our greatest living surrealist master. Firmly established as world cinema’s go-to guru for the grotesque and perverse, his feature films (Alice, Little Otik, Conspirators of Pleasure) have introduced countless arthouse audiences to a singular, slanted world of European decay–a delectably skewed stew that twists the familiar (body parts, food, household objects) to reveal the carnal absurdities of the everyday human condition. But nowhere is this vision more encapsulated and undiluted than in his prolific and rarely screened short films. Emerging from behind the Iron Curtain in the late ‘60s, his explosive early films evaded rampant governmental censorship by working within the “assumedly safe” medium of the animated short, employing stop-motion, puppetry, cut-out animation, experimental techniques and any means necessary to covertly inject his symbolic subversion into the Czech cinematic bloodstream. Slabs of meat copulating on countertops, bodies crumbling and merging in a sea of ecstatic clay, anthropomorphic food devouring itself and vomiting up more anthropomorphic food — all are right at home within Švankmajer’s mini-morsels of morbidity, but perhaps nowhere more at home as in the shared darkness of a theater, viscerally twitching and flickering on the big screen.

Watch Jan Svankmajer’s 1989 short “Meat Love”!
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