Thursday, June 18, 2009

Soviet: Time Out (1984, Priit Pärn)

Time Out (1984)
Soviet Union (Estonia), 9 min
Directed by: Priit Pärn
Written by: Priit Pärn
Priit Pärn's Time Out (1984) is as nonsensical as a Terry Gilliam cartoon, but with even more randomness to spare. The story, such as it is, concerns an overworked cat who wakes up and is immediately engaged in a flurry of stressful morning activities, eventually working himself into a nervous breakdown. At this point, the cat enters an imaginary inner world that temporarily removes him from the chaos of his daily routine, similar to the reveries of Jonathan Pryce's character in Gilliam's Brazil (1985). At this point, any semblance of narrative is thrown out the window. What I found most interesting amid all this craziness was how Pärn accentuated the surrealism of the cat's fantasies by toying with visual perception, a bit like M.C. Escher's tessellations – an apparent river is revealed to be a dwarf's blue hat; a bird rotates its beak to become a wizard's hat; a crow tries to take off, only to find that its tail is a turn-off in the road.

Eventually, the cat reawakens from his daydream and falls back into the chaotic routine to which he's become accustomed. His "escape" into fantasy, oddly enough, was no less hectic than his usual schedule, though he does admittedly have a greater control over the elements of his environment. Priit Pärn's visual style is a departure from the traditional Soviet animation of earlier decades, decidedly less graceful and with a slap-dash quality that suggests the animator was basically making it up as he went {visually, one might venture that the film is closest to the "Nu, pogodi!" series (1969-1993)}. There's even an appearance from a giant stamping foot, probably indicating that Pärn was, indeed, influenced by Gilliam's work on "Monty Python's Flying Circus." I usually enjoy Soviet animation for its gorgeous visuals, so I'm not sure that Time Out was necessarily my sort of film – but, even so, that was a wild ten minutes. I'm sure I'll be revisiting Pärn's other work at some later date.

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