‘Cartoons: No Laughing Matter?’


The premise of Film Forum’s motley week of animations isn’t so much humorlessness—most of the featured shorts are wickedly funny—but the unsung, largely undistributed dark art of serious frame-by-frame filmmaking, a massive genre that could support an entire summer’s calendar (starting with Walerian Borowczyk, Alexander Alexeieff, Yuri Norstein, Gianluigi Toccafondo, Abi Feijó, Priit Pärn . . . ). The recent English-language films here, running from five to 23 minutes each, explore decidedly un-cartoonish alleyways, and many are disappointingly sketchy visually. The most fulsomely executed of the films are also the thickest cuts: Lisa Crafts’s The Flooded Playground (2005) has a creepy Czech-puppet vibe (while being partially digital) and details the travails of a doll-infant figure under siege by ghostly invasions. Veteran animator Suzan Pitt’s El Doctor (2005) dishes out a lavishly surreal parable about an aging Mexican doctor, painted in lurid, Crumb-like caricatures. The Brits are repped by Suzie Templeton’s very unfunny stop-motion Dog (2001)—grim statements about childhood dominate the program—and Chris Shepherd and David Shrigley’s Who I Am and What I Want (2005), a Sharpie-drawn first-person portrait of a psychotic misanthrope’s life and delusions. Rougher still and most viciously, JJ Villard’s semi-notorious Son of Satan (2005) translates a Bukowski story of teen abuse into a seething, pustulant ordeal.