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Keep it in Motion - Classic Animation Revisited: 'Cine Blatz'

Every Wednesday, Chris Robinson takes a look at short animation films. Today: Jeff Keen's mindshuffling 1967 collage film, 'Cineblatz'

'Cineblatz' by Jeff Keen

I’ve been smitten with collage animation of late. I think it stems from a fatigue with the litany of new tech gadgets that appear every year, announced as a new life changing potion that will save us all and make the world a better place. But frankly, I find most of it to be the stuff of snake oil salesmen. It looks and seems cool, but underneath the gloss are generally the same ol’ classical linear narrative or short films being redressed in the latest sexy gadget.

Collage animation just seems to go against that. It's the ...let’s say... the vinyl of animation. It’s old school and, more importantly, inclusive. Anyone can do it. Some of the first art most of us ever made as kids was collage or cut-out. It was so joyfully violent and primitive. You could rip, tear, shred, cut images apart and then stitch tape glue then back into something new. Collage is the Frankenstein of art .... a place of reincarnation, that breathes new life into something long dead, long lost to the past. Collage art is a strange fusion of past and present. Like a memory, collage art is forgotten, dismembered then re-membered.

In this 1967 gem, the late English experimental filmmaker Jeff Keen presciently captures the dizzying sensation of our blistering fast food sensory internet existence in this rapid blip of chaos. Keen, anticipating our social media/internet experience, gives us no escape, no centre to grasp. We are bombarded with a fractured kaleidoscope of broken images that, like junk food, exit as fast as they enter. It all feels so urgent, so essential, yet in the end, there’s nothing...but a mess of people shaking and cowering in a corner popping smiley pills in a futile attempt to exterminate the demons of anxiety, fear, emptiness and confusion, that don’t really exist in the first place.

As the old banker from St. Louis, T.S. Eliot once scribbled, “This is the way world ends/This is the way the world ends/This is the way the world ends/not with a bang but a whimper.”

Big thanks to animator Lizzy Hobbs for leading me to Keen and his unique body of work.

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A well-known figure in the world of independent animation, writer, author & curator Chris Robinson is the Artistic Director of the Ottawa International Animation Festival.