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NEW BOOK: THE ART OF EXAGGERATION (Notes of a spectator)
Date: Saturday, 15.11.2014.
Venue: Conference Room
Time: 5:00 p.m.
Author: Milen Alempijevic
Publisher: LUDIBUNDUS, Cacak, 2014.

THE ART OF EXAGGERATION has emergerd in an attempt to approach the aestethics and poetics of contemporary autre animated film – this limitless Panopticon of ideas and views – with an intention that its final outcome should be in the form of a book that lands itself to new or renewed watching experiences. Thematically, the book spans a range of topics – from the phenomenon of cities as the modern society’s most contradictory symbols, to coexistence of animals and humans, relationship between animated film and jazz as a musical idiom that revolutionarised the understanding of popular music, as well as potencial expressions of certain authors from the country and abroad, and a discourse on the role and function of a doll as a subject in the animated film narrative.

Film critic Nebojsa Popovic says: “THE ART OF EXAGERATION is a serious, so-many-times-lived-through, study of animated film as an art which reflects other forms of art, science and times which certain works belong to and tell us about. Author’s view from the inside would not be complete if the phenomenon/film which is analysed were not placed within a wider phenomenological context, which transcends the mere concept of a framework or an area where a work of art is expressed, to become a provocation of its very essence. These are powerful, very often impressive analytical, informative, factographic, but also dramaturgical foundation for further creative contemplation where the narrative of animated films interweaves with remarks and expert comments that will yield the effective essential conclusion.”
A rabbit from the (American) hat
Multiple and multi-layered, ambivalent and omnipresent, from the earliest civilisations until our modern times, the symbolism of the rabbit has been in the focus of attention of researchers in various fields, from literature to astrology. The long-eared hero has lived through a number of incarnations in the films made by American authors: from Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, through the phenomenon known as Bugs Bunny, to Roger Rabbit, who shared the film screen on an equal basis with actors made of flesh and blood, in the hybrid feature-animation release by Robert Zemeckis, ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’. Even more recently, the studios such as Blue Sky, Pixar and others have provided sequels to the story of the rabbit... which all goes to show that the Story of the Rabbit reveals quite an unusual face to Hollywood.
Portraying animals in contemporary European film
The set standards in the presentations of animals, primarily based on anthropomorphism and anthropocentric aesthetics are still widely used today – however, in the animated creations of the contemporary animation masters, animals are depicted as more than just ‘the heroes’, rather a symbolic and/or extension to its human template. By focusing on short auteur films, an attempt was made to classify them into several meaningful categories – fields of heightened attention where generic links become visible. The eleven examples taken from the contemporary European production provide the framework for the analysis of the ‘social’ relations, with an emphasis on the ‘man-woman’ relation; the moment when a pet turns into a flatmate or a partner; the switch of roles/identities.
(Un)real world of dolls
Traditionally related to the concept of the game and thereby to children, the doll in the animated film takes over multiple aspects of meaning that multiply its symbolic potential. Animation of dolls requires a permanent material presence of the doll as the animation object. However, in contemplating the functions and the meanings of the doll/toy in the narrative of an animated film, one actually embarks on the discourse on the possibilities of the doll as the subject. From the rubber doll that becomes a life partner in the film titled ’Bernie’s Doll’, to cloth puppets who transform their creator into their own puppet in ’Overtime’, the doll comes close to men, enticing them into playing games the reality of which, as Roger Caillois puts it, is more real than reality itself.
A guide through Sylvain Chomet’s films
In his ‘Triplets from Belleville’ (Les triplettes de Belleville) released in 2003, the world discovered an inspired and witty narrator, with a taste for bizarre humour and a talent for the visual expression in structuring the film plot. As in his previous creation ‘The Old Lady and the Pigeons’ (La Vielle Dame et les pigeons) released in 1998, the life of weird Kafkian characters resemble a dark humour burlesque. His latest film, ‘The Illusionist’ (L’Illusionniste) is a slow-tempo and melancholy-rich creation, based on the original script by the French film’s most favourite clown, Jacques Tati, is completely different albeit not less exciting.
An essay on cohesion
Walter Benjamin once said that there was no other place save perhaps one’s dreams where the phenomenon of the boundary can be sensed in its purest form as in cities. We live in a time when the symbolic formula of Louis Mamford defining a city as a whole world and the world becoming one big city is becoming increasingly evident. The city and the post-historic man, with their mutual interactions. The nature and the drama of the city. The city as a refuge, a secret place, a figment-of-imagination universe and a parallel reality. Contemporary authors are faced with the megapolis as a symbol of the civilisation of our time, while their perspective varies from a dystrophic vision to apocalyptic prophecies leaving both the cities and their disoriented populations a slim chance in the approaching collapse.
Jazz and animated film
The clear presence of jazz in animated films can be traced back to 1930s, i.e. to the time when jazz used to be the American pop music. The chronicles the works of the classics, Dave Fleischer, Bob Clampit, Fritz Freeling, Norman McLaren, Tex Avery, as well as a number of contemporary authors of different poetic approaches.
The text deals with issues such as the racial ‘binary’ of America, the social environment for the jazz as an artistic form and the interactions (the aesthetics, social protest, prejudices, perspectives...), the role of jazz and its expression potential in the animation art, over a span of several decades. On one end of this scale is the negative stereotype of the Afro-American (Stepin Fetchit) of the lazy, servile and dumb black man, while on the other end stands the first black princess envisaged by the Disney Studios, in the cradle of jazz, New Orleans, in Barak Obama’s America.
Quite unique and provocative, Miloš Tomić uses the stop motion technique in his films, in order to prove that every thing has its own secret life which, as taught by the great Czech maestro Jan Švankmajer, awaits to be discovered. Tomić’s PhD thesis at the Prague FAMU is entitled ‘Preciousness of Discarded Objects, i.e. Trash as Material for Film, Photography and Animation...’. Tomić is the poet of used up items, a good-natured fetishist, a sourcerer enchanted and lighted by the microcosm of our everyday life, which makes him one of our most intriguing film artists. This text will try to find a way into the universe and chaos of his creations.
Although benign, almost unobtrusive in its habitat, the snail becomes an omnious paradigm, symbolising threat to humans in creations of certain authors like in René Laloux’ Les Escargots (1965), or in relentless carnevalisation and character comedy, such as presented in the Pjotr Sapegin’s Snilers (2000). How do these extremes occur? And why have snails in animated films? Contemplating this extraordinary member of the molluscs species, the slow walker destined to its limestone shell, Gaston Bachelard, the great wizard of the poetics of the material world, quite appropriately observed: “A house that grows with its resident is a miracle of this universe.”
About the author
Milen Alempijević was born in Čačak, in 1965. He is the author of about a dozen of books of various genres of general fiction. In the period between 2004 and 2006 he was the editor and announcer of a radio jurnal dedicated to jazz music. Over the past few years, he has written a number of articles on jazz, film and animation, for daily newspapers and cultural magazines. He has edited the double edition (No. 183-184) of the art and culture magazine ‘Gradac’, dedicated to jazz. Some of the essays in this book were presented in the form of multimedia lectures at the animation festivals: Balkanima (Novi Beograd, 2010), Animanima (Čačak, 2010), Animateka (Ljubljana, 2011). Milen works at the Cultural Centre in Čačak as the Editor of the Film and Video Programme and the Art Director of the Animanima International Animation Festival.
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