Interview with Shunga Gallery

Hello, gentle readers. Back in January of this year, I had the pleasure of being interviewed via email by the Shunga Gallery blog. Below is our conversation:

Shunga Gallery:  I love the use of the intertitles in your subversive tales as they were added in the movies of the silent era. What appeals to you about this style?

Jennifer Linton: The intertitles serve a couple of purposes. As you mentioned, they call back to the era of silent film. The paper cutout-style of animation I’ve used is one of the earliest forms of stop-motion animation and would’ve been contemporary to films that employed intertitles. On a basic level, having inter titles meant that I didn’t need to incorporate a voiceover narration. Also, the poetic rhyming of the text nicely reinforced the Victorian-derived aesthetic of the film, and provided opportunity for humour.

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SG: One of the paintings in the background of La Petite Mort is of Hokusai’s The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife. Also in both (and more of your) movies the octopus is an important character and a recurring theme. What’s your fascination with Hokusai’s print and the octopus in general?

JL: I’ve long held a fascination with a type of Japanese illustration that depicts ero-guro content. This type of content combines eroticism with absurd and grotesque elements. Hokusai’s famous shunga print predates the era of ero-guro-nansensu by over a century, but was highly influential on this later cultural material. The octopus is a fascinating creature; intelligent and beautifully alien to our eyes. The movement of an octopus’s tentacles looks great in an animation, which I one reason I use them so frequently.

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SG: Also striking are the articulated figures in your movies. Is this for aesthetic or practical reasons? Are you familair with the articulated puppets used in the toy prints (shikake-e) in shunga ?

JL: The articulation of the paper puppets serves the practical purpose of allowing them to be animated, but I’m also a fan of the aesthetic of paper puppets. While the movement of such puppets can be stiff and unnatural, this stiffness works great with material that is surreal, fantastic and dream-like. Surprisingly, I was not previously familiar with shikake-e puppets! Thank you for alerting me to this tradition.

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Video still from “Domestikia, Chapter 3: La Petite Mort”, 2013. Directed by Jennifer Linton.

SG: What movies and/or artworks had the greatest impact on you and your art and why?

JL: I’m a big cinephile, so there are many, many films and artworks that impact and influence me. My current animation project (entitled Wunderkammer) took an image from Toshio Saeki’s Masturbation Box as a creative jumping-off point, for instance.

Thank you Marijn at Shunga Gallery for the interview.

Update on “Wunderkammer”

Hello! Welcome to the cold, dark days surrounding the Winter Solstice. It’s been a while since I last blogged, so I thought I’d post an update on the progress of my paper cutout animation Wunderkammer. I’m about two-thirds of the way complete, so I’m beginning to see the light at the end of the animation tunnel. It’s a very, very long tunnel. Thus far, the footage amounts to only two-and-a-half minutes which, on the one hand, doesn’t seem like much. On the other hand, it truly is. Twenty-four frames a second, gentle readers.

Now that the Fall term in my teaching job is winding down for the Winter break, my production should pick up somewhat. Below is a scene that I completed two days ago. There’s no audio yet. Enjoy!

 

Wunderkammer work-in-progress video

Hello, my darklings. Thought I’d create a work-in-progress blog post for my ongoing Wunderkammer animation project. Above you can see a video of the final render for scene 8, in which the contents of the titular wunderkammer are revealed. All of the images in this scene were drawn by hand, scanned and output as large-format greyscale prints. These prints are then coloured with coloured pencils and, in some cases, cut out. Once the backgrounds and cutouts are complete, I shoot them under-camera using stop-motion techniques. Below are a couple of quick cellphone photos of this work process.

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Wunderkammer update

Work-in-progress shots of my latest paper cutout animation project, entitled Wunderkammer.* Coming in 2018.

SYNOPSIS: Madelaine’s cabinet of curiosities contains wonders strange, frightening, and erotic.

*A wunderkammer, also known as a “cabinet of curiosities”, is a place in which a collection of curiosities and rarities is exhibited.

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Storyboard image from “Wunderkammer”

Reel 13 Shorts

Please take a moment to vote for my short animated film Toronto Alice.

Each week, Reel 13 presents three Short films for consideration. Viewers vote for their favorite, and the winner airs on Saturday night along with our Classic and Independent feature films. Be sure to check back each week to vote for your favorite – new films appear each Saturday night at midnight; voting continues through Wednesday at 5pm. — WNED PBS (Buffalo).

VOTE HERE: http://www.thirteen.org/reel13/vote/

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Wunderkammer title sequence

A wunderkammer, also known as a “cabinet of curiosities”, is a place in which a collection of curiosities and rarities is exhibited. The cabinet kept inside Madelaine’s stately Victorian home was a very curious one, indeed. A tale of secrets, sexual fantasy, and embroidery.

My latest paper cutout animation project, coming in 2017. No pun intended.

Horror films I said I wouldn’t watch, but did.

Back in September of 2010, I wrote a blog entry entitled The horror films I probably won’t watch, and why in which I listed five films that, solely based on my knowledge of their content, I felt unlikely that I’d opt to view them. The five films were:

  1. Ruggero Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust (1980).
  2. Salò or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975) by Pier Paolo Pasolini.
  3. The August Underground Trilogy (August Underground 2002, Mordum 2003, Penance 2007) created by the Pittsburgh-based film production/special effects/design company Toetag Pictures.
  4. The mondo-style films Faces of Death (1978), and it’s imitators Faces of Gore and Traces of Death.
  5. Irreversible (2002) directed by Gaspar Noé.

The main issue I had with the listed films were the common element of “cruelty for the sake of cruelty” — or, in other words, that the sadistic nature of their content existed only to titillate in the most exploitative manner possible. Of course, since I had not seen these films, I had only their reputation on which to base my decision.

In the six years since I originally wrote that post, curiosity has — perhaps, predictably –gotten the better of me. Of the five films on that list, I’ve watched two (and almost three) of them. Here are my thoughts on each, in the order in which they first appeared:

Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust is, without doubt, a nasty film. Every frame of film looks smeared in blood, grime and sweat, probably because it actually was. The animal deaths are brutal and very real, and the actors endured a great deal of hardship while filming in the Amazon. The film is so notorious for the animal deaths, in fact, that I felt little shock when they finally happened as I’d read a great deal about them already. I was not prepared, however, for the casual manner in which violent rape was thrown on the screen. Now, if you’ve watched any number of 70’s Italian exploitation films, you’ll already be aware that rape is depicted with a great deal of frequency. Cannibal Holocaust is no different in that regard, but it’s much more violent here. Then again, this is a brutally violent world that Deodato is creating for us, and he does this quite effectively. The first half of the film, with the rescue team heading into the Amazon to locate the missing filmmakers, is frankly a bit boring. Things improve considerably in the second half, with the executives in New York viewing the footage recovered by the rescue team. This is where the whole “found footage” conceit kicks in, and is without question the greatest contribution Cannibal Holocaust has made to the horror genre. We’d probably not have The Blair Witch Project without the shaky, hand-held camera and POV-style of this earlier film.

The gore is spectacular and reasonably well executed, with the iconic impalement scene standing out as an impressive achievement in practical special effects. Sure, all the blood looks like red paint but, hey, it’s 1979-80. By the end of the film-within-a-film, you’re basically cheering on the natives to take their bloody vengeance on the monstrous Euro-American filmmakers — and boy, do they ever. If you consider yourself more than a casual horror film fan, then you owe it to yourself to watch Cannibal Holocaust at least once. Of the Italian cannibal films, it’s probably the best (though I haven’t seen all of them).

Incidentally, Eli Roth’s 2013 offering The Green Inferno is basically a mash-up of this film with Umberto Lenzi’s Cannibal Ferox (itself a complete retelling of the basic plot in Deodato’s film). Roth’s rehash pales in comparison to the brutality of the earlier films, partly owing to the fact that one simply couldn’t make those films nowadays (laws protecting animal rights in films were passed after the making of Cannibal Holocaust). The only change Roth makes to his film which I felt worked was the repositioning of the native tribe from “peaceful victims pushed to violence” to very purposeful and sadistic predators. The cheerfully privileged college student-activists in The Green Inferno die out of sheer First World naïveté which — aside from a problematic view of non-white “primitives” as the menacing Other — is an interesting re-contextualization of the traditional cannibal film narrative. 

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Salò or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975) by Pier Paolo Pasolini.

 

I tried to watch Salò or the 120 Days of Sodom, I really did. I only made it about 45-minutes into the film before I switched it off. Sure, the cinematography was fabulous and the acting seemed very competent … but, it was so fucking boring. Judging from the first 45-minutes only, it appeared that the sadistic fascists planned to bore their adolescent victims to death with all their incessant talking, talking, talking. One has to suppose that all the infamous rape, torture and shit-eating occurs much later in the film. Perhaps several cups of coffee are required to view this lengthy piece of arthouse-smut. I may follow-up with a films I said I wouldn’t watch because they were so boring, but I persevered anyway post at a future date.

I haven’t watched any of the August Underground Trilogy yet, and I’m still on the fence about them. I may give-in to my curiosity late one night, when I’m feeling up to the challenge of a film that features a headless, maggoty toddler corpse. These films are not available (nor will ever be available) on streaming media like Netflix. One has to dig in the deeper, darker places of the Internet to unearth these atrocities.

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One version of artwork for the “Faces of Death” VHS case.

I have, however, watched the infamous Faces of Death (1978), and found the film completely hilarious. I recall closely studying the VHS case at my local Blockbuster Video when I was a teen in the 80’s, curious about the title but too intimidated to actually rent it. Banned in 46 countries! Depiction of actual death!

Lacking any sense of true narrative, the film is a cobbled-together series of newsreel and documentary footage showing fatal accidents, war photography, human autopsies, and animals being dispatched in slaughterhouses, all loosely connected by the authoritative voiceover of our death-tour guide, the fictitious Dr. Francis B. Gröss. Some of the footage is clearly (and, in some cases, laughably) staged reconstructions of reputedly real events. The segment featuring a group of American tourists supposedly eating monkey brains in some exotic locale is laugh-out-loud ridiculous.

The final film, the Gaspar Noé directed Irreversible (2002), I plan to watch at a future date. It’s such a seminal film within the framework of “New French Extremity” that I feel I should, though I seldom feel like settling-in to witness Monica Bellucci get violently raped for several, protracted minutes. Blech. Still, the time-reversal conceit seems like an interesting one.

Anyway, happy Halloween horror-viewing!

New Horizon International Film Festival, Wrocław, Poland.

New Horizon Polish

I’m delighted to announce that Toronto Alice will screen on July 31st in the Children’s Films program at New Horizon International Film Festival in Wrocław, Poland. Considering that my use of paper cutouts is largely inspired by the work of Polish animators Jan Lenica and Walerian Borowyck, the inclusion of my film in this Polish film festival feels like a sort of stylistic homecoming.