Saturday, March 27, 2010

As For Film: The Mascot (1933)


Fans of stop motion, before you watch another Wallace and Gromit, Tim Burton, Jan Svankmajer or Brothers Quay film, you have to get on Netflix or Youtube and watch The Mascot. Miraculously, this film was made in 1933. And it is some of the very best stop-motion animation I've ever seen. You know, maybe it's not miraculous. Maybe it's Satanic. There's a chance that the director called upon demons to possess the inanimate objects in this film as a means of bringing them to life. There are movements and expressions in The Mascot that don't make logical sense to me.

Here it is on Youtube:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

80 years ago. Do you know anyone who's 80 years old? Imagine them as children, seeing that dog run around with his orange. It must have terrified them. Either that, or was so marvelous that it immediately destroyed their imaginations for the rest of their lives.

What I love so much about stop-motion animation is the intricacy. It requires a mind-blowing amount of patience and delicacy. Patience is a lost virtue in 2010. Be it filmmaking or commuting, we have to rush to get to where we're going. But I don't think the principle has changed. I still believe that the best things in life come to those who wait. Patience is a primary ingredient in all great art (be that for the creator, or the one interacting with the art). Life just isn't as good when we're impatient. And The Mascot is a monument to that truth.

The Mascot was made by a Polish-Russian named Ladislas Starewicz, a pioneer of stop motion. I hadn't heard of him before stumbling upon The Mascot, but he created many short films between 1910 and 1965. If you're like me, you probably want to watch all of his films now. If they're even a fraction of the visual spectacle that he created in The Mascot, I'm sure that all of them are worth watching.

Terry Gilliam actually called The Mascot one of the 10 best animated films of all time, right before Pinnochio. I think he's right. The Mascot set the bar so high (and so early on), few animators have ever matched its brilliance.

But, honestly, I can't really review a film like this. It might be full of symbolism and metaphors (I'd be very surprised if it wasn't. Watch and you'll see what I mean.), but I just can't stop gushing over the visual beauty of it. So that's that. It may not be typical of Total Darkness vs. Blinding Light, but in the case of The Mascot, style wins out over substance. And soundly. I mean, it just beats it silly. So watch the film, marvel at it, share it with fellow lovers of animation. I'm going to watch it one more time before bed.

**(If anyone else knows of some great, old stop-motion animation they'd like to share, please post it here!)

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