June 27, 2005 [Jan Svankmajer shorts]

I'd made the error of letting the children watch Jan Svankmajer's Faust a little while ago—and they've been haunting the house ever since, intoning, "Fauuuusssst-usss, Fauuuusssst-usss," with the kind of good humor only surrealism can engender: reckless, slightly menacing, almost wicked—but somehow innocent: the kind of sin only the sinless can commit. It would be dismaying in an adult, insane, even—then again, maybe that's Svankmajer's genius: an adult whose insanity is passed through a child's willingness to be frightened--by spook-houses and monster rallies, empty theaters and high balconies--where they hide, whispering, giggling a little, that child waiting for her entrance, like Alice—Svankmajer's Alice—going down the cellar to gather reluctant potatoes—which stream back into the bin, unwilling to be boiled. Smart potatoes: They know what kind of meal Svankmajer prepares, Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner, the next more hair-raising than the last; but all with love—Meat Love, to be sure, funny and scary all at once.

—And also somehow beautiful—Svankmajer, that is, that irreplaceable master puppeteer who knows what all the surrealists do about children—that they don't care about the weather, they'll play in the rain, let the thunder crash—oh, afraid to death of it, but squealing and pressing their hands against their ears and still darting on the soaked lawn like stop-motion clay imps whose souls are not for sale.


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