Friday, November 19, 2010

And Before Frank Miller There Was Karel Zeman

The Fabulous Baron Munchausen

Last Week I watched two of the visually most beautiful fantasy films of my life. Two works from the Czech master of animator/live film, Karel Zeman (1910-89). His style is consists of using amazing painted sets in the style of Victorian illustrations (Wikipedia names Gustave Doré as a influence - That's partially true), and the live actors who wander through animated settings. This impressive combination of live and dead, reality and fantasy, still and motion, makes his dreamlike images closest thing to a Georges Mélièsian concept of film as a fulfillment of dreams and unconsciousness.


In 1955 Zeman made his first film combining live actors, animation, and special effects, Journey to Prehistory. Three years later, he released his masterpiece The Fabulous World of Jules Verne (1958), opening a new world of possibilities that he explored in his other adaptations of Jules Verne novels — Stolen Airship (1966) and Off on the Comet (1968) - and classic stories such as The Fabulous Baron Munchausen (1961), and many more. The great success of these science fiction and fantasy features is a tribute to Zeman’s sense of humor and storytelling abilities, as well as his technique and originality. Though most of Zeman’s films are meant for children, they possess a sophisticated wit and visual style that enchants adults as well.

And yes, before Frank Miller and his black and white noirish drawings with a touch of red, there was Karel Zeman. To make sure, take a look at these shots from Stolen Airship, 1966, and see how mature, how impressive and how stylish is his style!


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