Thursday, 17 December 2009

Jonathan Hodgson "The Man with the Beautiful Eyes" (2000)

Jonathan Hodgson's The Man with the Beautiful Eyes is a film I saw shortly after release in Channel 4’s Animation Week nearly ten years ago. It has stayed in my memory. Based on a Charles Bukowski poem the film relates the experience of four boys who ignore their parents’ instructions and play near a house with tall bamboo and a fat goldfish. On one occasion only they meet the resident of the house, pushing open the door with a stream of invective aimed presumably at a partner we do not see. Drunk, complete with bottle of whiskey, unkempt long hair and unshaven he is nevertheless polite to them: “Hey little gentlemen, having a good time, I hope.” He departs with a smile. When his house is burnt down, the boys blame their parents whose fears for their children and very mundaneness conflict with the children’s perception of the man’s free spirit. For the man had striking beautiful eyes. Bukowski was an influential spirit himself in 1960s and 1970s America, a voice for the young against the establishment – he was also prone to heavy drinking. The boys blame their parents, the viewer might well think otherwise. A missing child poster is conspicuous in the opening scenes. The film concludes with a declaration by the children that “many people would have to die” followed by a lengthy black and white scene of a very normal street (featuring the shop front for Chinaski’s, the poet’s pseudonym.) It is either oppressively monotonous or reassuring depending on one’s point of view. The animation I find extraordinary. Designed by Jonny Hanah, hand drawn, constantly switching colour and perspective, realism and symbolism, text used as powerful images; the freewheeling nature is entirely suited to a narrative in which ambiguities are everything. Which brings me to my Christmas present and a request for one member of the family to buy me British animation: The Channel 4 factor by Clare Kitson. You may recognise the cover illustration.


Elizabeth Hobbs said...

Jonathan Hodgson's film is very masterful, I'm also a big fan of the truly chilling Son of Satan by J.J Villard which is also based on a Bukowski story. Have you seen that?

Ian Lumsden said...

I have seen the movie, Lizzy but am unable to find a legitimate link. It is not as well mannered as Jonathan's film though. (Understatement) Or come to think of it, your own "The Witches" about which I have written something. It will appear here in the new year so your undivided attention can be given to choosing the year's top ten movies, My own choice is still fermenting with the Christmas festvities, as it happens. And thanks for the comments. Much appreciated.