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Posts Tagged ‘the Balkans’

The “Romance” of Travel

August 25, 2015 | by

Joseph Roth’s hotel years.

The Grand Hotel des Bains, where Thomas Mann wrote Death in Venice.

“I am a hotel citizen,” Joseph Roth declared in one of the newspaper dispatches anthologized in The Hotel Years: Wanderings in Europe Between the Wars, “a hotel patriot.” It’s easy to see why: Red Joseph was nothing if not a cosmopolitan humanist, and the hotel was his natural habitat. “The guests come from all over the world,” he explains:

Continents and seas, islands, peninsulas and ships, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Muslims and even atheists are all represented in this hotel. The cashier adds, subtracts, counts and cheats in many languages, and changes every currency. Freed from the constriction of patriotism, from the blinkers of national feeling, slightly on holiday from the rigidity of love of land, people seem to come together here and at least appear to be what they should always be: children of the world.

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Fisheye (Riblje Oko)

March 27, 2014 | by

Happy birthday to Joško Marušić, a Croatian animator whose fantastic 1980 short, Fisheye, often swims into my mind when I order seafood. I once came across the film on YouTube, very late at night—which is, as connoisseurs know, the best time to fall down the YouTube mineshaft.

Fisheye is an inspired blend of the macabre and the mundane. Its premise is simple: instead of people going fishing, fish go peopling. At night, these jowly blue creatures of the deep take to the land, a murderous glint in their eyes—they feast on the residents of a sleepy coastal hamlet. While they’re well-bred enough to use forks, they seem to have forgotten that forks are intended for use with food that has already been killed. And they spareth not the rod: children are maimed, old ladies clubbed. If this doesn’t sound like your cuppa, give it sixty seconds; you may find yourself, as I did, transfixed. Is the film best paired with a psychotropic substance? That’s not my place to say. (Yes.)

Marušić belongs to what’s known as the Zagreb School of Animation. In a 2011 interview—informative despite its clunky translation—he says,

The Zagreb School of Animation had its specific technological and “worldview” coordinates. The technological characteristic of the School was the so-called “limited animation,” which, in digest, means a complete commitment to stylization. It is customarily contrasted with the Disney-style “full animation”, where all characters are animated according to the strictly delineated canons of [“realistic”] animation. The School introduced the genre of animated films for adults, films pregnant with cynicism, auto-irony, and the relativization of divisions between people. In all great conflicts, our sympathy is with the “small man” who is most frequently subject to manipulation. This “small person” exists in all classes and all societies, and verily constitutes the most numerous sector of society, but remains powerless because he or she is not “networked.”

 

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