High Five: Dash Shaw

When talking to us last week about his feature debut, My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea, artist, and director Dash Shaw let slip early on that he loves a lot of the otherwise-hard-to-find films available on Fandor.

Well, we followed up. Now here’s Shaw again, in his own words, on a handful of his most beloved Fandor offerings.

1. The Adventures of Prince Achmed by Lotte Reiniger

Made in 1926, this cut-paper-silhouette film is maybe the first feature-length animated movie. It’s also the perfect example of “independent cinema”—the means and the aesthetic are connected. It’s more powerful because it’s minimal. Absolutely beautiful. Many people have heard of this movie—it influenced Kara Walker—but not many people have actually seen it. There is a silhouette sequence in My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea that is an homage to this movie.

2. Asparagus by Suzan Pitt

I always recommend this short film to people. They are always completely floored by it. The design and illustration parts of it that feel dated to 1979 have aged extremely well. This looks better and better every year. I honestly think it’s one of the best films ever made.

3. The Pettifogger by Lewis Klahr

When I first saw Klahr’s work, it completely made sense to me as a cartoonist. He doesn’t use the comic imagery in an “ironic” or even a “pop art” way. He’s operating inside the melodramatic world of those romance and science-fiction comic strips. He’s using those symbolic characters in oblique narratives, sort of like the recent Gilbert Hernandez “Fritz” books, or some of Frederic Tuten’s writing. I can tell he respects that cartoony, stiff, stylized form. My friend who works at Light Industry in Brooklyn gave me a box set of his work and I love all of it.

4. The Obedient Flame by Norman McLaren

I think about this short film all of the time because it’s an example where a “job” or “commercial work” turned out more poetic and beautiful than solo, non-commercial projects. I honestly think this is the best thing McLaren did, and that’s not even a diss to his other works—it’s because this thing is freaking amazing! Totally gorgeous forms. It functions completely as an abstract movie. The fact that it’s also explaining something clearly just makes it more touching. I love the title too. It almost feels like it could be a Francis Picabia piece from his mechanomorph period.

5. Grizzly Redux and Tales of the Valley of the Wind by Damon Packard

I found out about Damon Packard from having a Fandor subscription! He’s one of my favorites now. These two in particular stand out to me. The Valley of the Wind one, obviously, because I love cosplay and Miyazaki and so that movie by Packard was basically made for me. Grizzly Redux is really interesting and funny. He edited his own movie into this old killer grizzly bear movie, but he didn’t make any obvious choices. It has a very, very dry humor. That one lingered with me a long time after I first saw it. It’s like he found a photo and drew outside of the image—he continued the image in his own idiosyncratic way. He found mundane activities happening nearby to this killer grizzly bear storyline. Amazing.

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