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Jiri Barta: Labyrinth of Darkness
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Includes the legendary animated film The Pied Piper of Hamelin
Revered as one of the world's most significant figures in animation, Czech filmmaker Jiri Barta has made a career fashioning stunningly gothic worlds of horror and fantasy that are infused with sublime humor and intense moral examinations. Mixing the aesthetic traditions of such artists as Gaudi, Kafka, Poe, Fritz Lang, The Brothers Quay and Jan Svankmajer, Barta's films are wondrous creations that go far beyond mere children's tales.
His early paper cut-out extravaganzas-Disc Jockey (1980) and The Design (1981)-give way to the object ballet of A Ballad about Green Wood (1983), in which logs celebrate the eternal renaissance of spring. Old mannequins spend their cracked and broken lives In the Club of the Laid Off (1989), and myriad styles of handwear spring to life as a brief history of international cinema in the award-winning The Vanished World of Gloves (1982). Barta's international reputation was cemented with The Pied Piper of Hamelin (1985), a very un-Disney adaptation of the classic German fairytale in which carved wooden puppets in a gothic cubist town are plagued by live rats. Considered one of the greatest works of puppet animation, it recalls the dark medieval epics of Ingmar Bergman. His only live action film, The Last Theft (1987), is a jewel thief/vampire flick shot in the style of 1970s European exploitation cinema.
Working mostly from the prestigious animation studio founded by the legendary Jiri Trnka, Barta's works have been criminally overlooked in the U.S.Read more ›
The eight pieces presented range from six minutes to 55. All of them are clever and well done, even if 'The Last Theft' and 'Disc Jockey' aren't really stop animation. The two longest pieces deserve the most attention, however. I had seen 'The Club of the Laid Off' before. It presents a crumbling warehouse where unwanted mannikins are sent to be forgotten, but take lives of their own. The forced cheer painted onto their immobile faces amid decay, their own included, cast a creepy spell over the whole twenty-five minutes, as did their deliberate and inaccurate humanity - they were, after all, created to display human clothes. Even their anatomically-innacurate nudity reinforced their pathetic poverty. Their ineffectual tries at normalcy just displayed a poverty of soul, too, opening the question of which creations deserve to have souls.
The best by far was the "Pied Piper of Hamelin." At nearly an hour, this sustained effort in stop-animation is an achievement in sheer endurance if nothing else - at 25 or 30 hand-crafted frames per second, an hour is a long time. But it offers more than that. The Pied Piper plot looms darker than any other I've seen. Without being "adult" in any way, this is certainly not one for the kiddies. But, even if the plotting and characterization didn't meet the highest standards already, the crafting of puppets and sets would still make this one of the best on record.Read more ›
Well it's easy to see why Amazon.com recommended this to me, considering the above-average amount of short film collections I own and my own interests in animation. I remember seeing this Jiri Barta collection at work once and was really curious about it, and it was nice to have the incentive to get around to watching it. I have to admit a lack of previous knowledge around this otherwise cult-followed, Svankmajer compatriot Czech animator, but it's been a wonderful adventure learning about him.
While Barta gets a lot of comparison to Svankmajer and the Brothers Quay (as well as Jiri Trnka, whom I've not yet gotten the opportunity to research), his movies are a lot looser, playful, and modernistic, sometimes to a fault. The collection of films on this set actually range through quite a lot of different moods and styles while always maintaining a clear sense of wit. At worst, some of the pieces can seem like Barta lost track of what he was starting and decided to just change it all -- rather difficult to do in animation when it takes so much time -- and at best it's perversely unpredictable fun.
I can see why "The Pied Piper of Hamelin" is his most famous work, as it fully realizes the very nature of fairy tale telling into graphic form, so that even in its most unique moments it seems direly, perversely familiar. It was very enjoyable and mesmerizing. My other favorite is the live-action "The Last Theft", mostly because it hits its gothic notes right on queue for some fun-loving morbid hilarity.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Why this animator is so little known will always be a mystery to me, but then again, I'm a huge fan of Czech animation. Read morePublished on February 18, 2014 by D. Mosca
while the pied piper of Hamelin is worth the price of a rental the balance quite contrarily is pure pop schlock making him a one schlock wonder why embarrassing brown stain on the... Read morePublished on January 15, 2014 by ERIC MUNSON
What a terrific collection have we here, almost every outstanding short animated film by the Czech master on one DVD. Read morePublished on December 21, 2012 by Lee Valesquez
7 very different animated shorts. Some brilliant in their storytelling, others a
little dull. Read more
The Labyrinth of Darkness is a brilliant collection of Barta's eclectic styles. The Club of the Undead, The Last Theft, and Krysar: The Pied Piper of Hamelin are notable works... Read morePublished on March 12, 2011 by Amélie
I bought this one because it was recommended to me by the amazon recommendation engine based on me enjoying Svankmajer and the Quay brothers. Read morePublished on November 24, 2009 by Un francais en angleterre
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