In “Faust,” master stop-action animator Jan Svankmajer interjects joltingly surreal animated imagery into a live-action treatment of the legend of a man who signs a deal with the devil without consulting agent or lawyer. Fest and tube programmers will want to check it out.
As in vet surrealist’s prior feature-length pic, “Alice,” animated passages are so startling and inventive that the narrative tissue between bursts of stop-action animation, pixilation and puppetry enchants far less in comparison.
Faust (Petr Cepek) at first shrugs off lures from Mephistopheles’ henchmen — which begin as cryptic photocopied maps handed out to commuters at a Prague subway exit — but ends up summoning the devil’s helper.
Faust declares that Lucifer can have his soul if he guarantees 24 years of pleasure-filled life in exchange. The deal works out differently. Faust finds himself an actor and then, literally, a puppet on a theater stage.
Outstanding animated set pieces include a clay fetus growing in a test tube that, once “born,” sits up and retains its baby body while its head goes through all the stages of aging, until it turns into a clone of Faust’s head, only to decay and die. Wonderfully expressive miniature puppet scribes issue forth when the time comes for Faust to sign his soul away in blood: Marionettes representing the devil get into a pixilated rumble with angel marionettes.
Evocative live-action silliness includes a corps de ballet performing with rakes in the great outdoors.