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Starting at the Beginning: Genetic engineering goes awry in 'Hello, Dolly!'

They're Back

'Spike and Mike's Classic Festival of Animation 2001' returns with more cutting-edge cartoons

By Richard von Busack

This year's pieces include:

"The Pigeon and the Onion Pie," a seedy Seussian rhyme about a flightless pigeon and a depressed, suicidal pastry.

"The Prince and the Princess," by the Afri/Parisian animator Michel Ocelot (Kirkou and the Sorceress), is a shadow-puppet play about a happily ever after ending that alludes the frog prince and his true love.

"Hello, Dolly!" by Mariko Hoshi, is a splendid little piece on how worries of genetic engineering tends to disturb the sleep.

"Father and Daughter" by Holland's Michael Dudok De Witt. In this year's Oscar winner for best animated short, a woman is haunted all her life by her father's vanishing when she was young. A corny old movie idea is made spare, silent and lovely.

"Brother," by Australia's Adam Elliot, is a memoir. Elliot's claymation figures, minimally animated, are recommended for fans of the cartoonist Peter Bagge. About the only introduction it needs is the note that though Australia is considered a place with fresh air, it's actually the Isle of Asthma. All the pollen from the eucalyptii and wattles leads to a large population dependent on "puffers" (asthma inhalers).

"The Man With the Beautiful Eyes" gives us Charles Bukowski at work. The delicate calligraphic animation by England's Jonathan Hodgson is finer than the material. The story is about a gang of neighborhood boys observing the scariest and yet most intriguing house in their neighborhood. It's sometimes easy to respond so thoroughly to Bukowski's sharp language that his blowhard qualities slip right through the mind. Is this story, then, about the superiority of a guy who yells abuse at his wife to the rest of us meek little burghers?

"Rejected" by Don Hertzfeldt is the real prize in this year's selection, even if it is a reprise. On the surface, Hertzfeldt's work looks like a crude laugh, and thus the Oscar nomination this piece received is a strange honor for a cruel cartoon. Still, Hertzfeldt's film should have won. The cartoons here purport to be rejected ad spots for the fictional Family Learning Channel on cable, shorts done with such violence and horrible ineptness that only a maniac would have considered them salable.

Hertzfeldt scores the film to some especially turbulent Beethoven, to reflect the crisis of the artist at last bowing down to sell out and finding himself incapable. Here, the animator is a mirror of Kafka's hunger artist, who would have eaten like anyone else, if he only could have found something he could have choked down his throat.

What's at stake in "Rejected" is nothing less than the spirit of animation, resisting the attempt to keep it in marketplace bondage. With his evil little drawings, Hertzfeld tries to flail the cuteness and commercial potential out of animation, for once and for all. "I'm a corporate whore!" "And how!"

Spike and Mike's Classic Festival of Animation (Unrated; 90 min.) opens May 11 at the Towne Theater in San Jose.

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From the May 10-16, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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