Movie of the Week #5
(Dave Fleischer; 1931)
With the release of Richard Linklatter's feature-length cartoon version of a Philip K. Dick novel, I thought it a good opportunity to turn, however briefly, to what is still, to me, the gold standard in animated cinema.
People who apply the term 'Surreal' to films produced in the early 30s by Max and Dave Fleischer are really missing the point. Indeed there are elements that correspond to that swell in the tidepool of European formalism, but to say that it's a defining characteristic (or even an important one) is to, in the same breath, dismiss everything that made their work so unique.
As is plain in even a gem as dark as their 1931 film Bimbo's Initiation, the Fleischers were not following the aesthetic footprints of Old World models, they were running on the freedom granted them by the knowledge that the only restraint on their vision was the limits of their ability. Nothing else accounts for the exhilaration in the center of their finest work. This was a time when popular art accomodated the strange and the unkempt and the lurid and the beautiful far more easily than any point since, a circumstance that brought forth the wild ether in which something like Bimbo's Initiation could be created.
There's more joy and horror in these seven minutes than in all the latter-day cartoon emanations of the last quarter-century.