Faust

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.

With:
Faust - Petr Cepek

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.

Faust

French-Czech Republic-British-German

Production: A Heart of Europe (Prague)/Lumen Films (Paris) presentation, in co-production with BBC Bristol, Koninck (U.K.) and Pandora Film (Hamburg), of an Athanor production, with participation of CNC (France) and Czech Ministry of Culture. (International sales: Celluloid Dreams, Paris.) Produced by Jaromir Kallista. Executive producers, Colin Rose (for BBC), Karl Baumgartner, Keith Griffiths, Michael Havas, Hengameh Panahi. Directed, written by Jan Svankmajer.

Crew: Camera (color), Svatopluk Maly; editor, Marie Zemanova; art direction, Eva Svankmajerova; costume design, Ruzena Blahova; sound (Dolby), Ivo Spalj; choreography, Daria Vobornikova; animation, Bedrich Glaser. Reviewed at Carre Seita screening room, Paris, May 3, 1994. (In Cannes Film Festival -- Un Certain Regard.) Running time: 95 MIN.

With: Faust - Petr Cepek

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