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(click on the video names for images, and to watch)

A Museum Video Installation

I'm not usually crazy about animation, but I am crazy about William Kentridge's works, and especially the 2003 Tide Table.  In fall 2004, I was walking up some stairs in the Met and I came upon this piece in a stairwell. It felt like I had entered another secret side of the museum (though interestingly, Kentridge's work was also on view that fall in the stairwell of P.S. 1). I watched it, alone, for several minutes, and then people started swarming up and suddenly I realized that this was not some kind of quiet pleasure; instead, it grabbed pretty much anybody who walked by. Tide Table is done in the typical and perhaps sole Kentridge style, all erasures and charcoal gray, and it's a terrific form for the subject. The film manages to look as though it's been washed up on a piece of driftwood, come to life and began relating a story. Furthermore, though, the story come through in unmistakably clear, but distinctive, symbolic language.  It fascinates me so much; it's as if Kentridge studied the surrealist manner of visually triggering and exploring the subconscious, and then went out and developed his own symbolic language that gives the viewer, somehow without artifice, a direct line into emotional empathy towards a specific place and state of mine.  You might not know much South African backstory, but you come to know something about history and experience nonetheless.

A Short Film

For a few years, I very regularly went to the Oscar Shorts when they played, pre-awards.  A particular year, 2000, was a memorable one for animated shorts (see also the ghoulish The Periwig-Maker), but one stood out and in fact won the Oscar.  It’s called Father and Daughter and was made by Michael Dudok de Wit, coming in at about 8 minutes long. 

Oh boy, it’s a tearjerker (or it was for me and my best friend upon first viewing and also just now when I looked at it for the first time in 8 years).  As compared to Tide Table, this is a very linear little story, about a young girl who loses her father, more or less.  There’s no dialogue, just an instrumental score interspersed with bird twitters and bicycle bells.  What’s so nice about this little winner is the directness itself; we don’t have to strain to follow a single emotion or turn of the story.  Mostly, the story doesn’t turn; it’s a life marked by repetition.  But the illustration-style, sepia and black watercolor-looking images just work so well with the immediacy and succinctness of the story.  I love, too, that it looks like a children’s book you might have paged through before, but the music, fluidity of the bicycles, seasonal images movement emphasize how well-suited to film it, in fact, is.

There’s even a charming moment, a bit silly, where the girl is riding her bike against the wind and then turns into it and FLIES away.

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