JAN SVANKMAJER Animator of Little Otik

Master animator Jan Svankmajer’s new film is a blackly comic tale about an infertile couple who adopt a tree stump as their child, only to discover that their ‘baby’ has a murderous desire for human flesh. It’s the kind of film that would give David Lynch nightmares. That it’s being hailed as Svankmajer’s most conventional film to date is less criticism of the film than testimony to Svankmajer’s warped genius.

‘The fact there is less animation in Little Otik than in Conspirators Of Pleasure or Faust doesn’t mean it’s a new departure,’ explains the 67-year- old Czech. ‘Animation for me is only a tool, although it’s a magical, subversive tool through which you break the utilitarian view of the world, because suddenly you have everyday inanimate objects that come alive.’

According to Svankmajer the fairytale upon which Little Otik is based, Otesa'nek, is notoriously well-known throughout his country. ‘It’s a morality tale for small children not to be greedy,’ says Svankmajer. ‘It has spilled over into adult life and language. An infamous new power plant in the Czech Republic has been called “an Otesanek”, meaning it devours resources. I have known the fairytale since I was a little boy, but when I re-read it with adult eyes, I discovered it’s actually a very contemporary story about the irrationality of human behaviour.’

Svankmajer believes in the act of artistic creation as a form of self-therapy. Thus, running through Little Otik are a trio of his own personal preoccupations. ‘For me there are three major recurrent obsessions, which come from childhood. There’s the dark cellar, there’s food -

as a child I was a non-eater and I was constantly being pushed into eating and castigated for not eating - and there’s puppet theatre, into which I could put all my fears and irrational feelings. But in an imaginative work all these subjective things take on more general meanings. For example, the cellar has become a symbol of our unconscious, while with food it’s not just that somebody is over-eating, it’s that the whole society is devouring itself, becoming cannibalistic.’ Svankmajer relishes the editing process (‘the most enjoyable part of making a film’), despite working with antiquated, Communist-era equipment. Unlike Western animators at Disney and Pixar studios, Svankmajer cuts on film rather



Don’t watch on an empty stomach

than digitally. With Little Otik he’s also proud of how simply the title character was physically constructed. ‘We went into the forests in winter and dug up tree stumps and took them back to the studio. The exact tree stump that resembled Otik was not possible to find, so we put together parts from different ones. There were no artificial materials everything was hewn from Bohemian trees.’

The appropriation and animation of found objects does indeed reflect Svankmajer’s non- utilitarian world view. (Tom Dawson)

I Lrtt/e Otik plays The Belmont. Aberdeen from Fri 7 Dec: Film/rouse. Edinburgh from Tue 1 l Dec. See {CV/OW.

ACTION COMEDY BANDITS (12) 122 mins 00.

.. I’fi. Thornton proves he’s a comic genius

Barry LeVinson used to be somebody. His Baltimore trilogy' iDiner. Tin l'vlen. Ava/on) prowded modest. guirky comic dramas that were a much- needed reSpite from the dumb 'high concept' Cinema of the 80s. But during the 908 LEBVIHSOH turned his back on these self-penned personal films to direct blockbuster trash such as Toys. DISC/OSUTG and Sphere. With Bandits he once again takes the money and runs. Written by Harley Peyton. the high point of whose short CV is a handful of episodes of TM!) Peaks, Band/ts is a tale of modern day bank robbers. Joe Blake (Bruce VVIHIS) and Terry Lee Collins (Billy Bob Thorntoni are the kind of habitual criminals it's okay to like: gentlemanly towards women. they steal only i .Ihat's insured by the government and are a bumbling

comedy duo to boot. They're also two sides of the same com. Joe being strong. handsome and confident. Terry smart and sensitive. but also a paranOid hypochondriac. This becomes a problem for the buddies when Kate Wheeler (Cate Blanchetti. a housewife driven into neurOSis by her dullard busmessman husband. attaches herself to the pair and re-enacts the Patty Hearst story while falling in love with both men.

It WOuld be nice to say that Bandits freguent provoking of infectious giggling is a sign of the old LeVinson sure comic tOuch. But it ain't. The belly creasing is down to the scene stealing performance of Thornton. who proves what was suspected on first VieWing his cameo appearances in Dead Man and U- Turn: he's a comic genius. While Willis snoozes through his smoothy tough guy routine and Blanchett does her best With a one-dimensional character. Thornton plays Terry perfectly straight. from his phobia of the actor Charles Laughton to phantom Symptoms of narcolepsy icaught from the manger of a bank while in the process of robbing it).

It's a crime Thornton's poker face talents weren’t matched by this overlong. otherWise unremarkable romp.

(Miles Fielder) I General release from Fri 30 Nov.

\NAR APOCALYPSE NOW REDUX (15) 202 mins ....

Is Francis Ford Coppola's new. longer cut of his Vietnam war masterpiece an improvement? No. it isn't. But this statement must be qualified: considering the Circumstances under which Apocalypse Now was filmed -- in the Philippines, where eveg'thing from hurricanes to heart attacks plagued the cast and crew you want to see everything they got on film. Hell. if Coppola released his original five hour assembly of the footage. l'd go see it.

Coppola and editor Walter Murch remixed Hedi/x from scratch irather than simply re-inserting deleted sceneSi. and the :19 additional minutes can be broken down into four sections. Firstly. new footage of Captain \l‘i’illard ilvlartin Sheen: and his Crew as they head upriver into Cambodia on their mission to assassinate rogue Colonel Kurt/ includes a hilarious new scene in which they steal the pri/e Surfboard of crazy chopper commant‘ler Kilgore Robert Duvall». and a relationship between the otherwise opaque Willard and his preViously only sketched-in subordinates 's developed. Then. in a scene shot during a typhoon and never completed. a second encounter with the Playboy Bunnies sees them entertaining Willard's boys up close and personal. A completely new sequence set on a remote French plantation adds historical background to the war. though x'ia rather clu'i‘sx. exposition during a dinner table argument between the coloniais. Here new character Roxanne lAurore Clementi provides a similarly awkward contrast between love and war. Finally. Marlon Brando's Kurt/ expounds upon the insanity of war to Willard. making Kurf/ more satisfyineg ambiguous.

Coppola argues the original cut was rushed out after an interminable shoot and editing process to appease critics shouting Apocalypse When?‘ He also suggests he lost sight of his intended philosophical inquiry into the mythology of war'. This explains the extension of Redt/x (restored to former prominencei. though none of the restored footage is necessary: the plantation sequence in particular rarer-extends the film's second half. which now drags. Still. Coppola and co—writer John Milius' brilliant notion of relocating Joseph Conrad's The Heart Of Darkness to Vietnam remains intact. As does the glorious chaos orchestrated by the mastermind Coppola. llvliles Fielderl I General release from Fri (90 Nov.

You want to see everything Coppola got on film

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