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Friday, August 5, 2011


Though only 13 minutes long, THE OLD CROCODILE is the main reason (and reason enough) for watching this DVD of Collected Shorts from Japanese animator Koji Yamamura. His early work tends toward abstract experimentation, but the shorts gain interest as he stretches his technique thru a variety of styles & animation techniques, from simple line drawings to Claymation puppetry. At times, Yamamura revives some of the charm, wonder & youthful imagination of John Hubley’s classic indie films from the late ‘50s & early ‘60s (MOONBIRD/’59; OF STARS AND MEN/’61), though not in the two ‘calling cards’ films on the disc. These more recent films, the Oscar® nom’d MT. HEAD/’02 and the longish short which gives the DVD it’s title, KAFUKA: INAKA ISHA / Franz Kafka’s A COUNTRY DOCTOR/'07, share a distorted drawing style that bump up against their source material. (Animation festivals around the world feel otherwise.) But that’s certainly not a problem with THE OLD CROCODILE which perfectly matches style to story. Working from a 1923 French title, this is an odd, even distasteful, fable about a lazy crocodile who won’t let family ties, friendship or worshipful followers keep him from a delicious dining experience . . . THEM! It is, simply put, an astonishment; cool & elegant, with flowing lines & delicate shadings. The croc’s peregrinations eventually take us to a land of African racial stereotypes, but the film’s heavy stylization covers over any objections. It is a small oddity; perhaps a masterpiece.

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