Search This Blog

Friday, July 7, 2017

Google Doodle on Oskar Fischinger ~ Ellis Dungan in Tamil movies

Whislt I am overtly enthused in Cricket, even when India loses badly in Champions Trophy, am no great follower of Cinema – today’s Google doodle made me post this.

Woman in the Moon,  is a science fiction silent film that premiered 15 October 1929 at the UFA-Palast am Zoo cinema in Berlin. It is often considered to be one of the first "serious" science fiction films. It was written and directed by Fritz Lang, based on the novel The Rocket to the Moon by his collaborator Thea von Harbou, his wife at the time. The basics of rocket travel were presented to a mass audience for the first time by this film, including the use of a multi-stage rocket.  Certainly very advanced for that day !! 

  Oskar Wilhelm Fischinger (1900 – 1967),  a German-American abstract animator, filmmaker, and painter, notable for creating abstract musical animation many decades before the appearance of computer graphics and music videos, had created special effects for the  Fritz Lang's movie.

In the late 1930s, a few animation companies had cornered the market on one-reel comedies. After making international movie stars out of affable talking animals, some of the biggest names in the cartoon business began to experiment with slightly more serious subject matter. The most famous such endeavour is Walt Disney’s Fantasia (1940), a feature-length series of masterfully animated vignettes which are synchronized to selection of classical music. Fantasia was the end result of Disney’s collaboration with legendary maestro Leopold Stokowski, whose name and likeness were used to promote the project.
Ellis Dungan on the sets of Ponmudi - pic credit :

Back home in Chennai aka Madraspattnam, there was this American - Ellis Roderick Dungan made his mark in Tamil cinema, from 1936 to 1950. He was an alumnus of the University of Southern California and moved to India in 1935. Dungan directed the debut films of several popular Tamil film actors, including MG Ramachandran in Sathi Leelavathi,  T. S. Balaiya and N. S. Krishnan. Ellis Dungan visited Madras in 1935 at the invitation of a classmate from the University of Southern California, where Dungan had studied filmmaking. Intending to stay six months, he spent almost 15 years in India, revolutionizing the Tamil-language film industry in the process.

In Fantasia, story takes a back seat to the emotional experience of music and the film is designed as a magical night at the symphony. A full two years before the release of Fantasia, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer had produced an animated experiment called An Optical Poem (1938) which similarly used colors and movement to visually interpret a classical piece of music – in this case, Franz Liszt’s Second Hungarian Rhapsody. An Optical Poem is not at all what you might expect from a major Hollywood studio; it’s abstract, it’s experimental and it has no story aside from a ballet of colorful geometric shapes. MGM’s introductory message describes An Optical Poem as “a novel scientific experiment” intended to convey mental images evoked by music.

An Optical Poem (1938)  was  so different from most American-made cartoons of its time is that the experimental short was conceived and directed by animator and visual artist Oskar Fischinger.  Google today has honoured Oskar Fischinger, the German-American artist, musician and filmmaker who created incredible works of animated art set to music, with a commemorative Doodle on what would have been his 117th birthday.

Fischinger left Nazi Germany for Hollywood in 1936 as Hitler cracked down on abstract art. His impeccably-created stop-motion animations, synchronised to music, were a painstaking endeavour that he would obsess over for months or years. Before computer software, the animations were a labour of love, requiring its creators to meticulously plan the arrangements and make sure they were in time with the music.

                       Fischinger died in 1967 but to this day many of his works are in the Center for Visual Music in Los Angeles. Although mostly known for his films, Fischinger was also a prolific painter, creating numerous works that capture the dramatic movement and feeling of his films within a single frame. Unsatisfied with traditional media, he also invented a contraption, the Lumigraph, for generating fantastic chromatic displays with hand movements — a sort of optical painting in motion and a precursor to the interactive media and multi-touch games of today.

Even with the advanced technology that now exists, emulating Fischinger's work is an impossible task. His colours and motion were so carefully planned yet naturally playful, his timing so precise yet human. So today's Doodle aims to pay homage to him.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

22nd June 2017

No comments:

Post a Comment