Three short films by Marcell Jankovics

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Sisyphus (1974).

Hungarian animator Marcell Jankovics died in May last year but he lived just long enough to see his most celebrated feature, Son of the White Mare (1981), restored and released for the first time in the USA. The film—which I haven’t yet managed to see—is one of those that gets described as “most psychedelic ever”, a grand and rather unwise claim when other animated features such as Belladonna of Sadness (1973) and Paprika (2006) are very “psychedelic” in their own different ways (and both films I’d recommend, incidentally). Psychedelic or not, Son of the White Mare is beautifully styled and vividly coloured, to a degree that puts it at the polar extreme to these three shorts from Jankovics, all of which are exercises in hand-drawn, black-and-white minimalism.

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The Struggle (1977).

Hungarian animation from the Cold War era tends to be overshadowed by the films produced by the studios in Poland and the former Czechoslovakia, but animated films from all the Eastern Bloc nations were a fertile medium for symbolic expressions of frustration with the politics of the time. It’s a commonplace observation that repressive regimes inspire a flourishing of metaphor and symbolism in the arts. I don’t know whether Jankovics was being deliberately allegorical with these three shorts but when two of them concern familiar figures from Greek mythology you start to look for subtext. The films are all very brief but they’re also technically impressive. I especially like the way Sisyphus manages to convey a sense of colossal weight with nothing more than a few calligraphic flourishes.

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Prometheus (1992).

2 thoughts on “Three short films by Marcell Jankovics”

  1. I was lucky enough to see Son of the White Mare in the local arthouse theater here in Minneapolis (Trylon Cinema) when it got its restoration, and it more than lived up to its reputation. It is definitely up there with the most psychedelic animated movies I’ve seen–Belladonna of Sadness and Paprika included. I think the music of Belladonna of Sadness is more psychedelic, but the visuals of Son of the White Mare are more freeform and experimental, and so colorful and inventive. The blu-ray from Arbelos Films also includes his earlier movie JÁNOS VITÉZ aka Johnny Corncob, also well worth a watch. Jankovics was such a master.

  2. Thanks, it’s one I definitely intend to see. I’d buy a blu-ray if a suitable candidate was available. I can’t play US blu-discs, and the German release doesn’t seem to have English subs. Here’s hoping Arrow or Eureka may release it here.

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