Ari Folman  

Israeli writer and director who became famous for 'Waltz with Bashir'. Employs a unique approach combining intellectualism, playful imagery, flights of surreal fancy and thoughtful provocative themes, but doesn't necessarily tie them all together for a cohesive experience, opting for a more free-form exploratory experience. His surrealism is often subtle but very free-form and consistent with deep dream-logic based on psychological insights. Recently made 'Where Is Anne Frank' which is an interesting Holocaust animated movie for the younger generation, and which uses fantasy and imagination nicely (but not surrealism).

Of Some Interest

Congress, The  
Ari Folman follows up on his surreal semi-animated hit 'Waltz with Bashir' with this work of Hollywood sci-fi meta-fiction that is like a blend of Richard Linklater and Charlie Kaufman. Robin Wright acts as a version of herself that is in a vulnerable position career-wise, and who is psychologically pressured and abused by Hollywood and her agent into signing her very self off as a commodity. Hollywood shifts into the next stage where actors are scanned and made into purely animated creations while the original actor must retire, letting the studios create and control any public persona they desire. Technology accelerates as the audience themselves start creating their own realities and live in an animated world, chemicals are altered or imbibed to control every emotion, celebrities are digested and experienced as a chemical, and, ultimately, people break away from reality to live in whatever free-flowing reality their whims desire. These ideas are fascinating, and the movie combines real-world personas and backstage drama with animated fugues, bizarre morphing imagery, confusing timelines and surreal memories. Unfortunately, the movie also just throws it all together in the hope that something sticks without actually making it cohesive and satisfying. The sci-fi elements are never explained even at a basic level (for example, what happens to the physical bodies when they shift into the animated reality?), animations are confusingly used for both realities, the various concepts rarely seem to work together (e.g. if people create their own reality and projected personal personas, then how does that work with a scanned objective persona?), and so on. All in all, a fascinating watch with hypnotizing surreal logic and dreamy imagery backed by scattered interesting ideas that don't develop or gel.

Saint Clara  
Uniquely odd and subtly surreal Israeli teenage coming-of-age movie. The world in this movie is unlike any other, populated by nonsense-spouting restless teenagers led by an aggressive skinhead and a psychic girl, and parents and teachers that are all completely bonkers. The city they live in feels and looks dead, surrounded by swamps and industrial derelicts and monoliths. The only TV station consists of a woman sporting an insane hairdo spouting increasingly nonsensical prophecies of doom, there's a seismological institute predicting earthquakes that is more interested in having sex after-hours and relating the Richter scale to Marylin Monroe, and the kids, as well as the French-obsessed principal, are seeking any kind of revolution and upheaval. Clara consistently predicts exam results much to the consternation of the teachers, as well as lottery numbers with unexpected results, and a surreal apocalyptic vision distracts the class when she is made to solve an impossible math problem, but her powers may disappear once she falls in love. I'm not sure what the point of this movie is, but it is definitely unique.

Waltz with Bashir  
An Israeli art-house animation that took the world by storm. The movie mixed dramatic re-enactment, a documentary approach with interviews, and surreal imagery, all exploring elusive memories of war to embark on an experimental personal journey of remembrance and trauma. A man's memories of the 1982 Lebanon War are triggered by his friend who has recurring nightmares about the dogs he had to shoot. He realizes his memories are all a blur or forgotten, and tries to piece together what happened there, especially on the day of the Sabra and Shatila massacre. Fear, trauma and the insane intensity of the experience infuses the re-enactment of war scenes with surreal scenes of emerging from an ocean naked into war, and seeking comfort on a giant naked woman that comes out of the sea. Other scenes include some nightmares, detached scenes of carnage mixed with party punk music, and a soldier performing a strange dance in the middle of a chaotic war. An interesting and valid personal and guilt-ridden exposure, but I'm sad over the fact that this will only fuel more anti-semitism. It's telling that all the outcries were aimed only at the Jews while the Phalangist/Christians who committed the actually massacre just walked away...

1999- by The Worldwide Celluloid Massacre Table of Contents