Wow so a morning kickoff for the first film in the Švankmajer retrospective, which featured eight shorts, all nearly fifty years old!!
The Last Trick is one of my fave svankyshorts, it’s a demented competition between two puppet-headed humans which spills over into violence and destruction. I guess that’s one reason i like Švankmajer so much, he sees the humour in breaking up what must have taken him and his team so long to build. For example, another short, Fantasia in G Minor sees lots of wall being broken up.
But yeah Last Trick is well trippy, dream-like, weird. The masks are spot on and it’s so inventive. And his first short, wow, it’s like Korine, Hanneke and Seidl, these directors don’t fuck around. Even their early stuff says a lot. (Also worth noting that all the four mentioned are white males).
And The Flat is a hysterical nod to Exterminating Angel (which i also saw at the Duke of Yorks thinking about it.. it was a long time ago and i was completely smashed, possibly a bit too smashed, i used to be a right bobblehead), in which a guy moves around a room and everything defeats him. A door leads to a wall, he can’t eat soup because the spoon has holes in it, if he rights one picture the other one goes wonky, in trying to break an egg he destroys loads of stuff (and gets his arm stuck in a wall), when he tries to light the stove water comes out and when he wants water from the tap a rock tumbles out (echoing A Game with Stones).
According to some blabla I found on the internet, The Flat “highlights the role of food as an instrument of control imputed by authority.” I dunno, I just enjoyed it. And kind of wanted him to sign his name as Josef K at the end… (but he didn’t). But yeah, I would therefore agree that:
The protagonist’s situation here, trapped in the flat, is particularly Kafkaesque in both its existential quality and its black humour, and it also mirrors the socio-political condition of both the artist and the everyman in communist Czechoslovakia.
In fact, it is interesting to see ideas repeat, with some variations on a themem but ultimately this only serves highlight Švankmajer’s inventiveness. Punch and Judy again deals with violence, but it features two handpuppets interacting with a fucken guinea pig. That is awesome!
You might wonder how much censorship there was back in those days, approaching the brutal repression of the Prague Spring in 1968. Apparently it wasn’t so bad, Svanky said in a recent interview “during that time, the censorship of my film work was minimal. Basically, when we talk about that time we are speaking about ‘the Golden Sixties’.” (Later on he was banned from making films for seven years).
The list (not in screening order):
The Last Trick (Cz 1964. 12min.)
JS Bach: Fantasia in G Minor (Cz 1965. 8min.)
A Game with Stones (Aus 1965. 8min.)
Punch and Judy (Cz 1966. 10min.)
Et Cetera (Cz 1966. 7min.)
Historia Naturae, Suita (Cz 1967. 9min.)
The Garden (Cz 1968. 19min)
The Flat (Cz 1968. 13min.)