Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Priit Parn "Breakfast on the Grass"

Breakfast on the Grass at 24 minutes in length is a little longer than is my wont in film recommendations. However if you wish to see one of the classic animators of the communist era, and one whose work satirizes that time, then Priit Parn is your man. The 1987 movie is very funny and idiosyncratic in its treatment of life for a series of Russian citizens. A housewife needs to go shopping in a state in which the luxuries, or rather necessities, of life seem strangely hard to come by. Shopping is stolen from a shopping trolley, the man who graciously opens the door for her whispers lewd demands into her ear, and she has to demean herself to obtain an apple. Necessities of life are bartered, fought over: an apple is exchanged for bread, for spectacles (and the shirt off the purchaser's back); a black velvet jacket promotes the wearer to God-like (or maybe dictator-like) status - apples, or the biting of them, seem to have caused some problems in our world. In another of the strange, parallel tales within the overall movie, Berta loses her face and has to paint one on with lipstick, whilst outside her window men are dragged to who knows what fate, another toils against the wind on a bicycle, an ornamental tree is cut down, whilst the seasons pass and she is in despair; until she is forced to venture out with her rapidly growing young daughter and discovers an apple (nothing is easily obtained in Priit's world) which she proceeds to exchange for balloons. There is so much invention in this movie it leaves any would-be reviewer breathless in admiration: the Monet tableaux towards the end, the surreal depiction of it all, the wit, the gouts of blood streaming from the forehead, the reminder to have your travel documents ready. The stylised graphics and restricted colour palette lend a unique quality to his work that has been very influential not only in his Estonian homeland but also in Eastern Europe's animators. Strangely enough he is simply not known enough elsewhere. I consider him to be one of the best animators in the world. His work, full of twists and turns, is never the expected. He takes pleasure in the dark and eccentric vision, though there is a resilience and humour about his characters that negates the bleakness. You may buy, as I am intending to, a DVD of his work from Amazon, and enjoy some of his artwork at the magnificent Animation World Network or visit their store to purchase his early and contemporary work. You will see different movies if you follow my recommendations in the Animation Blog, but you will see nothing better. I'll close in Priit's own words, with an explanation of his philosophy from an article by Heikki Jokinen: ".... life in the Soviet Union was bad? Everyone knew it. The message in my films was that somewhere there is a guy who thinks in a strange, different way. The absurd films were against the monolithic system. You could draw a sausage and that was a message because there wasn't any sausage. Everyone knew it, but that was not the point. The point is that someone did it."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love this.

But checked amazon and all they have is a VHS and I don't think it's available. Do you know where the DVD is available?

Thanks for blogging this great animator