Apparently Croatian animation company, Zagreb Film, has been busy over the past 40 years or so. According to the film’s opening they’ve “produced 600 animated films, winning more than 400 international awards” and coined a style known as “the Zagreb school.”
OK, being the ugly American I am, I had no idea any of this was going on. So, in an effort to broaden my knowledge of animation, and indeed the world, I added “The Best of Zagreb Film – Nudity Required” to my Netflix queue.
I felt so worldly when it arrived and I meant to dig in and see what this was all about. I mean, come on, it has the word “nudity” right in the title! How bad can it be?!
About two weeks later (I’m a busy guy, what can I say!) I’ve finally found the time sit down and really give this collection some time and attention and here’s what I’ve come up with:
Wow. This is some really weird stuff.
It’s not as if I was looking for Disney-esque animation with singing forest animals or anything, but this was outside even my broad expectations.
I’ll review each short individually, starting with:
“Way to Your Neighbor” by Nedeljko Dragic
This odd little film portrays a rotund character showering, applying deodorant and playing his genitalia like a bass before dressing in a tux and driving an X-8 tank out of his garage.
That’s the cartoon.
Apparently it’s very funny, but I don’t get it.
“Satiemania” by Zdenko Gasparovic
Set to the music of Erik Satie, this set of five odd vignettes includes 1) Lots of characters walking, 2) Panning over static images of various faces, 3) Reflections in the rain (the best of the five in my opinion), 4) A woman undressing and falling into bed, and 5) A lot of random violence and a male character with a penis for a head dancing.
I didn’t get this one either.
“Album” by Kresimir Zimonic
This was another surreal short revolving around a young woman perusing a photo album. Then a dog bites her and steals her pants and more weirdness ensues. There’s a lot of horse imagery that if I was smarter I’d probably remark “Aha!” to and smirk appreciatively.
I’m not that smart.
“Plop” by Zlatko Pavlinic
“Plop” chronicles the exploits of an overtly suave male and the woman he seduces at the local bar to come and clean his apartment. She gets her revenge, however, by sucking him into the vacuum, but in the ends finds she can’t get her love out of the carpeting.
The text at the beginning of the film describes this as “zany.” I found it odd at best.
“The Match” by Kresimir Zimonic
I’m going to review this look at soccer as a metaphor for war by simply listing the notes I typed while watching below:
Soccer players stretching
Weird images and jazz
Back to soccer
Woman and dragon
Knight comes to save her
Space war again
Soccer players sure are smoking a lot
Avant garde jazz
Players are nude women, then not
Space war yet again
Player takes part of other players leg – what the…
Soccer with tanks
Man smoking then puking
Praying for this to end
Knight gets girl then kills her
Man burns up
More with the space war
Thank god it’s over
“Dream Doll” by Zlatko Grgic & Bob Godfrey
This cartoon is the classic boy meets blow-up sex doll story. Of course the doll is later raped by thugs prompting some sort of flying sex doll mass exodus that I can’t explain.
“Mouseferatu” by Darko Cesar
A takeoff on the Dracula legend, this time the vampire is a cute little mouse that uses kung fu to gain entry into his victim’s abode. Once inside he finds the sexy naked she-cat and bites her, only to find himself in a cage when dawn comes.
Really the only clever part of this piece is the title.
Well, that’s all of them. In general the animation was good, if a little too artsy for my tastes. The stories (where applicable) didn’t really resonate with me, but maybe the cultural and geographic divide was just a bit wide to connect.
It was pretty easy (fun too!) to make light of this stuff. Some of the visuals really lend themselves to mockery (at points I was reminded of the “Worker and Parasite” cartoon Krusty was forced to substitute for Itchy and Scratchy), but it’s not really entirely fair either.
I’m no animation expert, and I really don’t have any organized art training, so take my comments with a grain of salt. I have to believe that the “Zagreb school” has its fans, and that somewhere someone is watching this DVD and really digging it.
I draw gag cartoons for a living and I have to believe that, in general, the Zagreb crowd doesn’t think I’m a genius either. “The Best of Zagreb Film – Nudity Required” just sort of left me confused and annoyed. I can’t say I’m glad I saw this, but I’ve decided to co-opt Nietzsche’s idea and end with this thought – “That which does not entertain me, makes me stronger.”