Carl Reiner made the world laugh. We will miss him but his legacy was to leave us laughing no matter what. And boy do we need it now.
As a kid I loved Your Show of Shows. Other than the program’s stars, Sid Ceasar and Imogene Cocoa, I had no idea who the other people were except that they were funny and we loved them for that. The actors and writers included unknowns like Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Howard Morris, Larry Gelbart, Neil Simon, Woody Allen and Carl Reiner.
Jean Cocteau said of Jiří Trnka, the Czech animator and puppeteer, that the very name conjures up childhood and poetry. Note the “and”—childhood and poetry, la poésie de l’enfance, which Trnka treats with the depth and respect those oft-belittled years merit. We are only too quick to gloss over our fanciful kid dreams, our stumbling attempts to use simple words to convey huge emotions which we spend our adult trying to refine and intellectualize and know, know, boringly know.
Trnka, by contrast, was a seer, a dweller. He dwelled in youth, dwelled in the crevices of language before social and linguistic codes are mastered (most of his films’ narratives lose you along the way, and that’s when you know they’re working). His magic is the magic of the slow burn, the way the worlds of imperial China or a rose-wrapped Greek forest unfurl before your childlike eyes with a responsible contempt for the straight-edged story-line. Trnka’s gift—the gift, also, of Lewis Carroll, Beatrix Potter, François Truffaut, Demy in Donkey Skin mode, the late Stephen Hillenburg, and other bards of childhood—was to give kids what they most needed for maturity, a truthful artifice wrapped in a lived-in melancholy and wistfulness, and to make jaded adults see as simply as their kids again.
A delightful blend of films that range from an exceptional sea faring drama, THE AGE OF SAIL to a very funny and goofy cartoon comedy, THE GREEN BIRD are part of The 20TH Annual Animation Show of Showsstarting its national release at four San Francisco area theaters on Friday, November 2.
For those who have heard about the excellence of Polish animation but haven’t seen much of it, the “Polish Animation 70 Years” series at Pacific Film Archive is a superb crash course in a remarkable body of work starting Sunday, December 3. Since the political thaw of 1956, Polish animation has been winning awards at film festivals all through the world.