Time for our second Stop-Motion Film Night. Roll up. Settle down with the popcorn, the pick ‘n’ mix or the pack of cold beers. Let the cinema curtains crank open in the dark.
The first Stop-Motion Film Night was a somewhat creepy affair, so for this second instalment I tried to find some light-hearted videos for your delectation. For the most part, I failed. Let’s face it, antique toys and taxidermied beasts lurching into animated life are always going to tingle the spine. But here’s a short film that raises a smile and leaves your vertebrae untickled.
It reminds me, particularly when the hole opens up in the floor and the girl dives in, of Lewis Carroll: “Down, down, down. Would the fall never come to an end! ‘I wonder how many miles I’ve fallen by this time?’ she said aloud. ‘I must be getting somewhere near the centre of the earth.”
Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland bring us to Jan Švankmajer, and at once the creepiness kicks in. The compiler of this video has set it to a track by Múm, a perfect choice to keep some of Švankmajer’s darkness at bay, but there’s nothing any accompaniment can do about the goggle-eyed bone monsters the white rabbit summons.
Let’s go back, way back. The grain of old film. The earnest faces of actors long passed. These things do more for my sense of wonder than all the sophistications of modern cinema. Something in the long focus and the time taken and the stiff playfulness. Below is Dreams of Toyland, stop-motion from over a hundred years ago. Bear with the serious boy in the tricorn as he and his mother labour through the introductory live action scene. Enjoy what follows and choose something slow and careful to listen to as you watch it. Josh T Pearson’s Country Dumb will see you through most of the film, and leave you quiet for the disturbing finale. Come the 3.30 mark, watch the shadows cast by the sun on the streets of toyland, a hint of the long hours devoted to the stop-motion.
To finish on the light-hearted note we started on, here’s Gulp by Sumo Science at Aardman, but not before some Ernest Hemingway to set the scene. This is the largest stop-motion ever, and come the end of the film there’s a link to a making of featurette. As well as giving you an even greater sense of the scale of the set, it will give you some sand sculpting tips you can put to good use next time you’re at the seaside.
Then he began to pity the great fish that he had hooked. He is wonderful and strange and who knows how old he is, he thought. Never have I had such a strong fish nor one who acted so strangely. Perhaps he is too wise to jump. He could ruin me by jumping or by a wild rush. But perhaps he has been hooked many times before and he knows that this is how he should make his fight. He cannot know it is only one man against him, nor that it is an old man. But what a great fish he is and what will he bring in the market if the flesh is good. He took the bait like a male and he pulls like a male and his fight has no panic in it. I wonder if he has plans or if he is just as desperate as I am?