Fantastic Fest: Here it is! The Mad God, Phil Tippett: Stop Motion Legend’s Most Personal, Weirdest Movie – Screenshots

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Stop motion animation turns gods into humans. Because what is divinity, if not to breathe life into the inanimate? Art has its pantheon. Willis O’Brien, the man who made King Kong roar; Karel Zeman, who merged stop motion and live action footage; the Czech nightmare Jan vankmajer; master of monsters Ray Harryhausen; and Phil Tippett. The man who flew Luke Skywalker through the legs of an AT-AT and caused mechanical injustice in Detroit in Robocop, before applying his understanding of movement to computers to bring in dinosaurs jurassic park. But now he waved a Mad god, his stop-motion epic of darkness and monsters that evokes both experimental filmmakers like Stan Brakhage and the legacy of cinema one incremental action at a time.

Mad god, which receives its US premiere at Fantastic Fest, is a subject of legend in itself: Tippett’s mysterious and bizarre project, so dark and innovative that no studio would come close. In animation circles, he occupied the same mythical place as that of Richard Williams The The thief and the shoemaker, which was left unfinished by Williams’ death, and so it was only released in bastard and incomplete forms. Yet Tippett finally saw his vision come true after decades of casual work, sometimes in massive bursts. The origins go back to the 1980s, when he started and then abandoned the project. After two decades on the shelf, Tippett started giving it what he called “an update,” and finally in 2012 he showed the footage to editor Jim Robinson. “He was surprised how much it came down to the tone and placement of the characters.”

With this new impetus, Tippett gave himself a deadline: the film had to be ready for the Locarno Festival 2021, where Mad god debuted in August. Fortunately, he had completed the actual stop motion phase just before the pandemic locked the entire film industry, “and then it was pretty much the composition and color grading and the finishing of the film. music”. However, it is still a living and breathing entity. Tippett nodded at the mention of George Lucas’ phrase that the movies are never over, they are only abandoned. Even since Locarno and its North American premiere at the Fantasia Film Festival in Canada, “we’ve updated the color grading, and Richard Beggs will never be done with the sound until we find a distributor. “.

There is an image – partly from industry legend Ray Harryhausen – that stop motion artists work alone. Tippett, who is bipolar, credited his manic side with giving him the momentum to keep the film on track, and even dubbed it “my superpower. … I’ll be working on something until that I fall. Well, “he clarified,” I would. I won’t do it again. “

“Everything is cyclical. Everything comes back around. All you have to do is wait. “– Phil Tippett

Yet Tippett described Mad god as a massive collaborative effort. It was the artists at Tippett Studios, keen to work with physical puppets rather than CG creations, that inspired the update. “People just tended to gravitate towards her,” Tippett added. “I was giving lectures in the Bay Area and people volunteered. … Sometimes on the weekends I would have between 15 and 25 unskilled people from middle and high schools and elsewhere.” The film would have been impossible without this help: one of the sets “lasted about three years, with between four and six people working to stick thousands and thousands of soldiers melted on these hill shapes.”

Still Mad god is still deeply personal, driven by the director’s creative vision he described as springing from “a life of ideas and memories that just keep flowing”. Take the enigmatic opening scene, in which the viewer first sees a character known only as the Assassin descend through a Danteen nightmare. Tippett recalls, “I was in college, barely out of high school, and I did a cut I never filmed of a diving bell going into a sinkhole, but it was square. “

Like the art of stop motion, which was preemptively declared dead when CGI arrived, Tippett’s creative process proved that patience isn’t just a virtue – it’s essential. “Everything is cyclical. Everything comes back. You just have to wait.”


Mad god screened Wednesday, September 29 at 9:20 p.m. at the Alamo South Lamar, and is available on FF @ HOME September 30-Oct. 11.

A version of this article appeared in print on September 24, 2021 with the title: See! The Mad God, Phil Tippett


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