Tagged: underground

Pink Narcissus (1971)

Pink Narcissus is a 1971 feature film directed by James Bidgood. The 65 minute film depicts a prostitute(Bobby Kendall) as he lounges in his apartment, drifting in and out of homo-erotic fantasies. There is no dialogue as the protagonist drifts through a number of dreams, such as that of becoming a matador in an encounter with a leather-clad biker, a Roman slave boy, masturbation in a forest and seduction by a belly dancer.


While the majority of Pink Narcissus is live-action, the film features several stop-motion animated sequences, puppeted and handcrafted sets, stunning creativity, inventiveness and a strong handcrafted quality throughout. I thought this film would be of interest to many people as it is unique and distinctly personal cinema.

During an animated sequence at the film’s onset, the camera tracks through a forest with a luminescent moon shining through foliage. We see handcrafted spider webs, and live mice scurry beneath a painted backdrop of stars. The camera then tracks in to a chryssalis hatching and a stop-motion butterfly emerging and taking it’s first flight. We then see our protagonist walk into a pink room to light a candle as stop-motion rose petals fall over a gilded picture frame suspended in a pink ether. This is just a sample of the vivid imagery which permeates the film.

Pink Narcissus was shot entirely in Bidgood’s cramped New York apartment over seven years. He lived among the various sets while creating the film. This lack of space and limited resources required a certain kind of ingenuity from the creator. When asked how he went creating the forest scene in his apartment, Bidgood replied “Every breath of space was used” … “I was in a very small apartment. So that moon was a tabletop that was in one room, and the sky in the background was a huge frame that was as big as it could be and still pass through the archway that led into the living room where it started…” “You see if you have that kind of conviction and want to do that and if you really think you know how to do it, you should do it! And you shouldn’t let anyone tell you that you should ‘start a little simpler’.”

One scene I find particularly amazing comes towards the final third of the film. Seemingly taking inspiration from Robert Wiene’s German expressionist films of the 1920’s such as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Genuine, the scene depicts a hand-made New York cityscape. Asymmetrical buildings clad in glowing signage tower over colourful, strange and menacing characters. Pantless sailors, disheveled bagladies, men clad in BDSM chains and harnesses, a nurse in a storefront struggling(or dancing) with intestines, a cowboy with his cock out and a postman with his penis in his hand. Alongside these live-action characters sit atrophied stop-motion animated figures vomiting near a bin and cavorting outside a bloodbank.

“There were times when I needed four people to do a shot and there was no-body but me. There’s one scene where there’s a New York skyline. And I had to have little motors to make things work, the camera was connected to a string to make the it tilt up or tilt down because I didn’t have anyone to operate the cameras. There was another motor to make the fan blow intermittently so the curtain billowed. And then I had to run back behind the set to makethe signs in the skyline light up. It would have been nice if I had a couple of extra hands. A lot of things were like that. I had to make machines. I don’t think anyone realises how hard it was.” – James Bidgood

The film’s rejection of many cinema and staging conventions as well as it’s handmade aesthetic contribute to it’s otherworldly and ethereal tone. While nothing is done ‘sleekly’, the handmade aesthetic effectively weaves together the seperate elements to create this fantastical world . Another distinguishing feature of the film’s aesthetic and dream-like tone is it’s intense colour. Bidgood dipped the 8mm film in coloured dyes to give it bright pink to irredescent blue overtones throughout the film.

The sad part was that when you’re making a film for seven years, people don’t have a lot of patience, and they want you to finish your work of art on their timetable. So getting anyone to help me was very difficult. It was always difficult, even when I got help but it got to be toward the end that even the people that were… y’know… even Bobby left. He just couldn’t stand the whole situation anymore. Bobby is not the only Bobby in the movie, there are stand-ins for Bobby. *laughs* When you lose your leading man… first of all when your leading man goes bald making the movie, it takes a lot. It was very funny.” – James Bidgood

For years the film was rumoured to have been created by Andy Warhol or Kenneth anger, due to Bidgood being credited as ‘Anonymous’ after being denied the final cut on the film which was then edited by the producers. “It was very sad what happened to it.” ruminates Bidgood in an interview with Brian Robinson, Programmer of the London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival. “So much of Pink Narcissus is not there. It’s really sad because so many of the optical effects and the materials were all there to work with when it was taken from me and put together by people who had no idea what I was intending. First of all, the film is so personal, how could anyone else put it together? It’s like you’re trying to come into my dream world and see what I see only at night by myself.” During the mid 90’s the film’s origin was tracked to Bidgood and it was eventually re-released in 2003 on DVD by Strand Home Videos.

This film is essential viewing for anyone into personal underground cinema, which embodies stunning creativity and strong D.I.Y resourcefullness.

-Hamish Storrie

. All James Bidgood quotes were transcribed from an interview with Brian Robinson, Programmer of the London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival. The interview is contained in the special features of the 2007 BFI DVD release. 

Instagram Resources for Animators

It goes without saying that social media is mostly be a pointless time drain, but sometimes it can be used to insert great art and valuable influences into daily life. Recently I’ve found a few decent instagram accounts that highlight interesting animations, works to get inspiration from or resources to study. Here are a few of my favourites.

Anti-CGI
https://www.instagram.com/anti_cgi/
Anti-CGI is dedicated to practical effects, atmospheric stills and strange cinematic imagery. Heaps of gritty and dark influences to be found here.

99Machinders
https://www.instagram.com/99machinders/
A repository of captivating anime clips, 70’s japanese Tokusatsu, and manga. This instagram has so much visually dynamic and … imagery.

Animation Resources
https://www.instagram.com/animation_resources/
Clips of mostly 30’s, 40’s and 50’s animations from Warner Bros, UPA, Fleischer Studios and other of that ilk. Pretty useful for what it is but all pretty mainstream ‘cartoony’ animation.

Bittycar
https://www.instagram.com/bittycar/
An eclectic mix of 40’s and 50’s animation, graphical illustrations and forgotten pop-culture.

There’s probably more great accounts that I haven’t found yet so if you have any good resources leave a comment. I’m working on getting www.instagram.com/undergroundanimation off the ground but I’m still trying to figure out the right settings to upload videos. When I get some free time I’ll begin uploading some interesting clips.

-Hamish S

FUNDING YOUR FILMS

SO you’re making your own animated feature or ambitious short film. You’re dedicated and working as hard as you can to make the best film possible, but you still need to eat, pay the rent, get equipment/materials, pay the electricity bill etc. So there comes the big question. How you fund your creative project?

Options really depend on where you’re living/making your film. I live in Australia and there are certain options I can take that might be different from ones where you live, but I’ll try and keep this list as globally relevant as possible.

CROWD FUNDING
I’m sure you’re already clued into crowd-funding. But if not, sites like Kickstarter, Pozible and IndieGoGo can help you get funding by giving you a platform to ask people who may want your work to fund it in small donations in return for content. For crowd-funding to work you’ll need to already have produced some content like concept-drawings or trailers to allow possible donors to see and become interested in what you’re offering. I also recommend not asking for too much money as if you don’t reach your target in the allotted time you don’t get the money. Crowd funding seems to work best for creators whose audience has taste inside edges of mainstream. Content such as genre films, pop culture references or sequels to already well known IP is often successfully funded. It probably won’t be very successful if you’re trying to fund you weirdo art film or avant-garde comic book but you might as well give it a go because one of the best things about crowd funding is that you have nothing to lose by trying.

GOVERNMENT GRANT
In Australia artists/filmmakers can apply for grants from Screen Australia for film, or Arts Council for more experimental work (art). Getting a grant extremely competitive and you really need to know how to write applications in a certain way. You’ll also need to fulfill and fit neatly in their key criteria depending on the specific grant. It really depends on the project you’re working on whether you’ll even be eligible to apply. It’s not looking like I can apply for funding for my feature at either of these funding bodies due to my unconventional production (solo animated feature), but I’ll keep looking around and maybe I’ll be able to in the future.

UK: The British Film Institute looks like it’s your place to go.
Germany: Check out The German Federal Film Fund.
USA: Unfortunately there’s no federal film funding body in the US. Certain states offer tax credit but it’s unlikely it’ll be useful for D.I.Y or underground filmmakers.
Other Countries: It really depends where you are. Have a look around for federal or state/provincial film funding. Send out some emails to people. It can’t hurt.

PART-TIME JOB
This is what I’m doing for my first feature. The idea is that you get a job you work at 2/3 days a week that will pay enough to cover living expenses. The rest of your time you use working on your film. You’ll probably be living below or close to the poverty line but it’ll be worth it in the future when you’ve got films to sell. Just be careful the job & the lure of more money and easier living doesn’t suck you into doing too many days and compromising on your film. I’ve seen it happen. You’ll end up with no film AND a shitty job.

BANK LOAN / CREDIT CARD
Independent filmmakers have been known to use bank loans or credit cards to fund their feature film productions. It’s pretty a pretty risky move though due to insane interest rates which mean you end up paying much more than you actually borrowed. Filmmakers Susan Buice and Arin Crumley took out a bunch of credit cards to fund their 2005 debut feature Four Eyed Monsters and accrued over $100,000 in debt. I’m not sure if they’ve paid it off yet but I doubt it. Be careful, doing this might help you make your first feature but will cripple you financially enough that you won’t be able to make your second for ages.

MISC/OTHER
Investments: Generally to get a large enough return on any investment you need sufficient capitol invested to begin with. So… probably not the most useful to us as if we had that kind of money we wouldn’t need funding to begin with. Keep an eye out for stuff like bit-coin though, even though it’s high risk (markets could crash and you lose your moneys).

Hook Up With a Rich Person: Long shot here… but you could always hook up with a sugar mummy/sugar daddy. Unethical and kind of immoral… but if you love each other I guess it’d be ok.

Medical Research: Robert Rodriguez did it! Didn’t work for me unfortunately but maybe they’re more willing to use human guinea pigs where you’re from.

Go To Hell! – Solo Feature Animation by Ray Nowland

‘Go To Hell!’ begins with the reaganesque character GD persuading his new secretary Angel to enter a ‘suspended animation booth’ which effectively brainwashes her so she wants to bone GD. While essentially raping his secretary; GD’s wife enters the room with their son and proceeds to burn his cock with a cigar. Yes, this is the kind of fare you can expect from Ray Nowland’s ‘Go To Hell!’, but there’s more.

go to hell 1

‘Go To Hell!’ is a crudely animated 1997 feature spanning roughly 73 minutes. At first it seems like it’s only going to be a comedy that’s aim is to shock us with vulgar nudity and violence, but it is much more. The narrative of ‘Go To Hell!’ is essentially a fresh and raw take on the Bible, creation of man, eugenics, fascism and environmentalism. It takes a gutsy approach to these themes and issues and displays and uncommon and rare social consciousness you won’t find in any Hollywood animation.

go to hell 2

GD is actually God and his son Little Red is Lucifer. The planet they live on becomes polluted so they set off to find another habitable planet in a spaceship filled with people or ‘genetic specimens’ who are to repopulate the new planet. GD and Little Red stay in stasis for the majority of the journey while the crew and people on the ship reproduce and pass through generations, gradually inbreeding and mutating. They arrive at earth while dinosaurs still roam the planet and ‘Little Red’ and a few of his followers head down to the planet to smoke weed and play in the jungle. GD is not happy about the dinosaurs and indigenous life and wants to exterminate them with a passing asteroid, then repopulate the planet with his genetically modified creations. Little Red disagrees with this because GD is pretty much the biggest asshole in existence.

    I guess dinosaur bud is pretty good…

GD enacts his first extermination while ‘Little Red’ hides in a cave with his snake friend. When he comes to the surface, the earth is populated by ape-like creatures who are enslaved by GD their creator. Mad at his father’s dickery, Little Red decides to copulate with one of these creatures and spawn forth a new race, teaching them to think for themselves and have self determination. Essentially every step ‘Little Red’ takes to better mankind through education, reason and kindness, GD destroys through plots and scheming from his spaceship orbiting Mars. GD goes on to kill his grandson Jesus, create the Catholic Church to subjugate humans, create numerous conflicts and genocides including WWI and helping out Hitler in WWII.

go to hell 5

Even though I think the myths in the Bible outdated, irrelevant and extremely boring; I found ‘Go To Hell!’ was an interesting and particularly ballsy take on it all. It’s all the more impressive that Ray Nowland drew every frame of the film himself with only some help in post production from Leaf Nowland.

As a child who grew up in Australia, I watched ‘Blinky Bill’, a cartoon about an extremely obnoxious koala and his friends that Ray Nowland worked on as an animator. While having some of the most annoying characters imaginable it had a strong environmental theme that is carried over into ‘Go To Hell’. The flat and crude animation style in ‘Go To Hell!’ is particularly reminiscent of ‘Blinky Bill’ and budget Australian televised animation

I don’t think Blinky made it…

It’s pretty uncanny to see this style of animation I was familiar with in my childhood carried over with adult themes, and to make it even weirder most characters in ‘Go To Hell!’ are voiced by Keith Scott who voice ‘Splodge’ and many other characters from ‘Blinky Bill’. This is coupled with a 16-bit soundtrack reminiscent of early video games such as ‘Duke Nukem 3D’.

go to hell 6

I recommend ‘Go To Hell!’ for anyone that’s into weird fucked up animation, adult fans of ‘Blinky Bill’ or anyone interested in the history of underground, solo or Australian animation. ‘Go To Hell!’ is a rarity and at the time of writing this there’s only one torrent available of a VHS rip. It’s not in print or for sale anywhere.

‘Go To Hell!’ is Ray Nowland’s only feature and last of his work that is recorded. After trying to track down details of him to get an interview, I can only guess that after creating ‘Go To Hell!’ he either retired or died. I like to think he’s still making fucked up cartoons in a bedroom somewhere.

-Hamish .S

 

 

Let’s Kick This Into Overdrive

It’s a new year and it’s finally time to get this website operational. I’m back on my path to create my first solo feature animation by creating a bunch of shorts this year while developing my technique and animation skills. I’ll be trying to find my own distinct style for the upcoming feature and working to become the best storyteller possible.

the-storyteller
I’ll evolve into this salty dog

I’ll also be reviewing great animations, old and new alike and talking to a bunch of animators working underground on interesting projects who’re really pushing the art further and into different directions. I’ll also be posting great tutorials and techniques for other aspiring animator weirdos out there!

Expect much much more to come!

 

-Hamish S.

Solo Feature Animation – Heart String Marionette by M Dot Strange

M Dot Strange is a solo feature film animator and ‘Uberector’ from San Jose, California. What is a solo feature film animator, or Uberector I hear you ask? Well it’s someone who through wielding a gigantic amount of willpower and determination, has completed a feature length animation, mostly if not completely by themselves. An Uberector is pretty much the embodiment of Auteur theory and D.I.Y or Die mentality. M Dot is such a man and he does it well.

Heart String Marionette is the second feature animation from M Dot Strange, his first being We Are The Strange. Heart String Marionette or HSM is a tale about a samurai, a child and a prostitute who quest to defeat an evil warlord and his minions who are devastating the world. On the surface the narrative of HSM is a relatively simple tale of revenge and Good fighting against evil, but on closer inspection the story is thick with subtext about rampant capitalism and commercialisation, sexual abuse, resisting corrupt governments and corporations, and navigating the current world as a creative, artist and individual.

The art in HSM is mindblowing. M Dot Strange creates a world that is as tangible as it is surreal. The characters and monsters have a childlike simplicity to them, as they all represent puppets and marionettes. The atmosphere of HSM is thick, dark and foreboding.  The score to HSM by composer Endika was heartfelt and amazing, however i feel it was a little overused as it covers the majority of screen time without break. This has the effect of making HSM seem more like an opera than a film. I’m not sure if this is something I liked or detested. I feel that the lack of diegetic and atmospheric sound in HSM took me out of the space that was created and I felt like the world was less of a place I could inhabit and explore, which is something I value in animation. It also made HSM into a sort of weird Noe theatre puppet show which I enjoyed.

The only other criticism I have of HSM is the way females were portrayed, which could be construed as misogynistic. From reading and watching M Dots work(especially the strong anti-misogynist message throughout We Are The Strange) I know this is not the case, however it troubled me non-the-less.

Heart String Marionette is an odd and highly personal work from one of the best and most innovative artists and filmmakers today. I definitely recommend getting a copy and supporting M Dot Strange, just don’t watch it with your mum.

You can buy the digital version of Heart String Marionette HERE for $5 which is totally worth it.

You can read about more M Dot Strange madness on his blog HERE where he talks about being a rad filmmaker.