Tuesday, 20 October 2009

George Ungar "The Wanderer L'Étranger" (1988)

Scratching out black paint directly under the camera to obtain movement would not succeed in every instance of animation but in George Ungar’s lithograph-like The Wanderer L'Étranger the medium is exactly right for this tale of devilish intervention in the affairs of man. The director quickly establishes a harmonious community in which children play, stallholders trade and the fields are ploughed by moonlight. Into the village arrives a mysterious stranger whose largesse and magic offer riches undreamt of by the inhabitants. A table is transformed into a lavish banquet, a simple village girl becomes an exotic beauty, and a young boy has his broom turned into a musket. The shadow of the stranger falls heavily on the people. When he leaves the apple is well and truly rotten, paradise is no more. The movie is heavy on symbolism. The arrival of the stranger into the bar, a discarded scythe, damaged church roof, dead bodies, close-ups of faces transformed. Using as a device the raven wheeling over the fields we see the devastation wrought by the devil though all the damage is self-inflicted. The serpent did not bite the apple. In the hands of such a skilled artist the movement is sinuous a times. One is manipulated around and through characters with a remarkable dexterity. At other moments action is frozen into vignettes of significance. There is nothing whatsoever new in this oldest of stories but one gasps in admiration at a bravura performance from the director and artist.

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