269 Great Directors: Jan Svankmajer

“André Breton would not say “Surrealistic painting”, he would say “Surrealism in painting”. In the same way, I speak of Surrealism in film. Surrealism is psychology, it is philosophy, it is a spiritual way, but it is not an aesthetic. Surrealism is not interested in actually creating any kind of aesthetic.”

What Got This Director Here?
: Long career, but not enough works that people really want to get behind.

My Favorite Past Experience Was…: Dimensions of Dialogue, a masterful short that should be far more acclaimed.

What Did I Watch: One short (Food) and one feature (Alice).

Where Does He Fit: Food’s three act structure results in slightly uneven quality (Lunch, as per usual, is the worst meal of the day, while Breakfast is the best), but all the shorts are total fun if not as good as Dimensions of Dialogue. Plus, the usage of humans as the puppets is brilliant stuff, especially in the shots where heads bulge in such a way as to make you wonder how they did that. We are pretty damn gross when we eat, but at least we’re not what we eat.

Alice, however, might just be Svankmajer’s masterpiece. The fairy tale is old and familiar, so why not embalm it with taxidermied animals and props that look like they will give you tetanus? In this world, everything is cluttered and gross, but thankfully there is hope to be found at the end when the flamingos and pincushions come to life as chickens and hedgehogs, and either way, it’s a world that is a feat of a child’s imagination in more ways than one. The ending is brilliant, but so is the damn physicality of it all. What a delightful puzzle that gives new life to an old favorite.


Most Valuable Asset: Grotesque stuff is so harmless when it’s small.
Most Excited For: Conspirators of Pleasure has the most fun title, so that one.
Did They Deserve a Spot?: Yes, definitely. Shame he’s been forgotten.

Coming Up Next: Lovable interviewee Jerry Lewis.


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