Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Little Man (orig. Malý Pán) [2015]

MPAA (UR would be PG)  Fr. Dennis (despite misgivings 3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing listing* listing*

Ceská Televize page about Malý Pán*

Aktuálně.cz (Jan Gregor) review*
Červený (E. Bartlová) review* (M. Spáčilová) review* (H. Petrželková) review*

The Little Man (orig. Malý Pán) [2015] [IMDb] [CSFD]*[FDB]*(directed by Radek Beran [IMDb] [CSFD]* [FDB]*, screenplay by Lumír Tuček [IMDb] [CSFD]* [FDB]*, based on the children's book Velká Cesta Malého Pána []*[GR] [WCat-CZ] [WCat-ENG] by Lenka Uhlířová []*[GR] [WCat] [IMDb] and illustrated by Jiří Stach []*[GR] [WCat] [IMDb]) is a CZECH / SLOVAK marionette [en.wikip] based children's animated film, made initially _for children_ by Czech TV*  The film played here recently in Chicago at the Gene Siskel Film Center as part of the 2016 Czech That Film Tour organized annually by the Czech Ministry of Culture and the Czech Diplomatic Mission to the United States.

To be honest, I kinda "rolled my eyes" through much of the film even as _many_ of the Americans viewers around me watched with almost _jaw-dropped_ fascination.  NOTE TO THE MAKERS OF THIS FILM: Regardless of what my aesthetic sensibilities may urge me to say, you have something here!

I rolled my eyes because as "a good Czech immigrant kid," I grew-up knowing / experiencing a thing or two marionettes.  Indeed my mom, an artist, was one of several Czech immigrant artists who were _regularly enlisted_ by the local Czech Catholic Mission / Czechoslovak National Council here in Chicago to help paint / design sets (kulisi) for various children's "marionette theater" (loutkový divadlo) productions.  Indeed, I thought that those "back in the day" marionette productions were _just adorable_ ... You just can't really appreciate "Little Red Riding Hood" / "The Big Bad Wolf" or "Cinderella" quite the same way until you see these stories play out on a Marionette Stage ;-).

And I rolled my eyes for two specific reasons:

(1) I didn't particularly like _the aesthetics_ of some of marionettes which I found needlessly tending toward the grotesque.  I did not mind the "robot marionettes", the "air ship marrionettes" (indeed I found them both _current_ and "kinda cool" ;-).  The art form _has to progress_.  I understand that :-).  What I did mind is that the makers seemed to prefer the grotesque aesthetics of Monty Python [1988] or perhaps some of the more recent "claymation" works -- from Chicken Run [2000] to Anomalisa [2015] -- to the FAR FAR CUTER / FAR MORE ADORABLE aesthetics of _homegrown_ Czech children's toy design. 

And (2) after putting so much effort into creating some _really well crafted_ set designs (and even marionettes, even though I have just called a lot of them _needlessly_ ugly ;-) the puppeteering itself seemed quite _uninspired_.   The puppets just kinda bounced around and they don't have to.  One could do much better if one put in the effort the next time.

DON'T GET ME WRONG.  I do think that the FILM-MAKERS here are DEFINITELY ONTO SOMETHING HERE.  Making Prague the center of marionette animated films _could_ really become the Czech Republic's answer to both Ghibli, and Pixar.   But please don't throw away something that could really be(come) spectacular for aesthetics _borrowed_ from elsewhere (be it from the English (Monty Python), the Germans (their "gnomes" etc) or the Communists (where everything is "realistically" "covered by dirt" ;-).  A traditionally cheerful Czech or more generally SLAVIC aesthetic can a contribution to world culture as well.

And to let Readers here understand what I am talking about and what truly is possible, let me end by offering a link to a CLASSIC / SILENT Czech toy animated short called Vzpoura Hraček (The Rising of the Toys) [1946] [YouTube] [IMDb].  THAT IS WHAT'S POSSIBLE and WHAT A CONTRIBUTION IT WOULD BE, IF THIS AESTHETIC / ART-FORM was recovered and updated / expanded for the present !

Again, you're really onto something!

* Foreign language webpages are most easily translated using Google's Chrome Browser. 

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