Monday, December 3, 2007

The Alchemist and his animation

Harry Smith has been dubbed by many to be one of the worlds last Alchemists. Sensational in life,
excessive in collection and larger in life in creativity Harry Smith made many films and many works of art in his time on this planet.

Perhaps one of the most famous art work of his (and the one that is almost constantly being showing somewhere in the world with the appropriate Magic Lantern technology he envisioned) is "Heaven and Earth Magic".

This bizarre concoction of cut out animation, for the most part, using replacement rather then traditional inbetween illusion of movement was all made with a theoretical single take. Throught out the different scenes of the film there is always something that is kept from the previous scene to the next. Whether it be the artificial frame, the primary "character", for lack of a better term, or at least one of the magical objects that are presented something always stays from one scene to the next, which creates the illusion of one entire take. However, being from 1966 and shot on film; this was created on at least 3 different reels of film (and probably more). So the piece took a certain amount of perfection to hide each reel cut.

The film itself tells an abstract story of dark magic where skeleton horses dance and enormous static female heads poses small men to work wonders before our very eyes. Nothing about the film makes any sort of exact sense and even from an abstract point of view the images seem like they should be fairly uninteresting. But there is some sort of hypnotism about the film. It runs just over an hour and from the first minute your eyes are afraid to blink out of fear of missing something crucial. It is memorizing in a way that no other film is (except maybe "The Tin Woodman's Dream" another cut out animation by Harry Smith). It is magical within the film's own reality, but somehow, even after 40 years, the film has a certain amount of magic in our reality that keeps us fixed upon the screen.

"What's going on?"
"I don't know, but its fascinating and surprising at the same time!"

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