386. The Last Trick – Jan Svankmajer

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SUMMARY: Two magicians attempt to outdo each other by performing the best trick before an unseen audience.

WHY IT’S HERE: Legendary Czech animator Jan Svankmajer is one of the most influential and unusual figures in animation. ‘The Last Trick’, ironically the director’s first trick, sees Svankmajer debuting in fine form. The short tells the story of two magicians locked in a game of one-upmanship. The magicians are portrayed by actors with large puppet heads but the tricks they perform give us a first glimpse of Svankmajer’s trademark jerky stop-motion technique that makes his films so creepy and memorable. There is less actual animation here than in the average Svankmajer, with live-action and camera trickery playing as large a part as any, but the sparingly used technique beautifully enhances this dark little comedy which ends with a grisly but somewhat inevitable turn of events.

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