Friday, August 28, 2015

Short Film: Fétiche Mascotte / The Mascot (France, 1933)

After the meta-post-mod CGI extravaganza of last month's Short Film of the Month, Kung Fury, here's some (real) Old School: a pioneering masterpiece written and directed by the sadly underappreciated Władysław Starewicz aka Ladislas Starevich aka Vladislav Starevich aka Владисла́в Алекса́ндрович Старе́вич (8 August 1882 – 26 February 1965).
Despite the short's simplistic plot (a toy dog seeks to fulfil a child's request), The Mascot, with its numerous ape-shit situations and characters that include a horny monkey, a lady of easy virtue, a decapitated clown, the devil and a knife-wielding thief, is definitely not for kiddies. (Though we also wouldn't be surprised were someone at Pixar to one day admit that the short was the original inspiration to Toy Story [1995 / trailer].)
In regards to this roughly 26-minute-long flick, which we stumbled upon rather accidentally and then went on to read about, Terry Gilliam pretty much hits the mail on the head in every way — though he is wrong about the short being the director's last film; Starewicz made many more after The Mascot, including another fours shorts featuring the stuffed dog of this one — in The Guardian article in which he lists "The 10 Best Animated Films of All Time": "[... Ladislas Starevich's] work is absolutely breathtaking, surreal, inventive and extraordinary, encompassing everything that Jan Svankmajer, Walerian Borowczyk and the Quay Brothers would do subsequently. This is his last film, after The Tale of the Fox from 1930 (full film, while it lasts); it is all right there in this cosmic animation soup. It is important, before you journey through all these mind-bending worlds, to remember that it was all done years ago, by someone most of us have forgotten about now. This is where it all began."
Over at mubi, they offer a valid interpretation of the short: "The protagonist, a puppy, wanders into the Bosch-like landscape inhabited by the relics of a hedonistic society in decay. In its quest to capture an elusive orange, (Starewicz's symbol of virtue) the hapless puppy must contend with an environment that is unrelentingly bleak and threatening." Still, all's well that ends well...

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