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Shorts Program 1: A Star from the Start

Film Society of Lincoln Center

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Trnka proved himself to be a master animator from the very beginning, as evidenced by the formally inventive, wittily offbeat works in this program, which includes the filmmaker’s earliest experiments in the art form: hand-drawn cartoons that play like a distinctly Czech anti-Disney, a modernist tour de force of surrealist invention, and a rapturously beautiful puppet adaptation of Chekhov. The program also serves as a survey of animation techniques employed by the artist throughout his career.

Grandpa Planted a Beet / Zasadil dedek repu Jiri Trnka, Czechoslovakia, 1945, 10m No dialogue A farmer finds himself with an unusually fertile bumper crop on his hands in Trnka’s first film, a charming hand-drawn adaptation of a Czech fairy tale that announced the director as an animation talent to rival Disney.  The Animals and the Brigands / Zviratka a petrovsti Jiri Trnka, Czechoslovakia, 1946, 8m Czech with English subtitles A rooster, a cat, and a goat meet a trio of ignoble characters deep in a night-shrouded forest in this hand-illustrated, Cannes prize-winning folktale, which showcases Trnka’s gift for evoking light and shadow. Springman and the SS / Perak a SS Jiri Brdecka & Jiri Trnka, Czechoslovakia, 1946, 35mm, 13m No dialogue Trnka combines 2-D and collage animation to striking effect in this zanily offbeat, anti-Nazi lampoon, which crosses Max Fleischer–like absurdism with a biting satirical edge. His first collaboration with Jiri Brdecka. The Gift / Darek Jiri Trnka & Jiri Krejcik, Czechoslovakia, 1946, 15m Czech with English subtitles Trnka reached new heights of modernist abstraction with this innovative, surrealist mini-masterwork, which critic Jean-Pierre Coursodon praised as the Citizen Kane of animation. Romance with Double Bass / Roman s basou Jiri Trnka, Czechoslovakia, 1949, 13m  Czech with English subtitles This dreamily beautiful puppet work adapts a short story by Chekhov into a magical, moonlit reverie about a musician, a princess, and a chance encounter while night-swimming. The Golden Fish / O zlate rybce Jiri Trnka, Czechoslovakia, 1951, 15m Czech with English subtitles Trnka returned to 2-D animation for this wryly humorous fairy tale—written and narrated by legendary Czech actor Jan Werich—about a man whose problems only multiply when he catches a wish-granting fish.

Introduction by Irena Kovarova on April 20

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