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The stop-motionMTV did not invent Music Videos. In fact, they've been around since at least the invention of sound-on-film. From Cab Calloway's the early Disney Silly Symphonies to shorts featuring Betty Bopp, animated music videos have been with us for a long, long time.
Oskar Fischinger was one of the true masters of abstract animation, every bit as significant as folks like Harry Smith. He created some remarkable films, but only one for a major studio. An Optical Poem shows Fischinger's style masterfully, and shows that he understood the audience's expectations, and brain-mapping. The stop-motion geometric shapes that flash and flow across the screen are masterfully timed, and the way the shapes play with each other makes you convicened that Fischinger had filmed mobiles of these cut paper dots instead of doing it one-frame-at-a-time. The music, Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2, is as much a setting as an accompaniment. The shapes are playign across it more like a dancer than like an optical, abstract form. In contrast to the more figurative animations of that period, such as Joie de Vivre, it is more expressionist, and thus more able to connect with deeper sensations of movement. The editing here is obviously designed to hit with every note, but importantly, to highlight every change in the music, and thus power the audience more into it, while also drawing them closer to the imagery.
This film is an absolute masterpiece, and an excellent entry point for those wishing to experience Abstract film. While Disney bastardized his work on Fantasia, MGM gave him room to explore his craft, and he did so incredibly well.
Klaus at Gunpoint
A Film Journal dedicated to all film.A segment of Office Supply Publishing.