It was tremendous to see the work of Witold Giersz at the National Gallery shown at the weekend. I felt like an ignoramus not having seen much of his work before, but what a nice introduction, to see a selection of the films with a Q&A too. He’s made 50 films, and this was just a small portion of his output, so it’s unfair to generalise, but in this screening, I most appreciated the simplicity of his earlier work, like The Red and the Black (Czerwone i czarne,) from 1963. The humour in the film comes from a reflexive moment in the middle, in which the characters escape from the page and into the animators studio, a motif seen in Will Anderson‘s The Making of Longbird, amongst other films. Nearer the end of the film, the bull takes a mirror and turns it on the camera, where we see Giersz caught out smoking a fag.
The Little Western (1961) is an irreverent cowboy film, a forerunner of Phil Mulloy‘s Intolerance series. Maybe it wasn’t just the lovely animation, but the simple narrative of these early films that appealed as well. He showed The Star (1984) which is the first quarter of a film that he wanted to make, but the censors prevented him completing the next parts, or maybe he wasn’t funded for the final two sections. Compared to the elegance of the early work, it was just a little bit clunky and blunt for my taste. There are so many wonderful Polish animators who can better scrutinise the political and social aspects of Poland under a communist regime, these include Jan Lenica, Walerian Borowczyk, Jerzy Kucia, Zbigniew Rybczynski and my present favourite, Julian Antonisz. I’ve maybe said it before, but its very much worth investing in these comprehensive DVD’s: The Anthology of Polish Experimental Animation and The Anthology of Polish Animation.