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Storytime, finally available in some circles (thanks you-tube), is the
first cartoon, or series of cartoons, from Terry Gilliam. His gift for
the silliest and most tasteless visual gags, as well for skill in
creating comedy out of what can also be oddly imagined, is on full
display in three stories presented in the span of eight and a half
First is a little diddy about a "cheerful little cockroach named Don", who goes about munching on food (this one scene, where Don goes behind a cupboard, is all meant to be like radio where there's lots of big noises and thumps and crashes and grunts, but only the cupboard on screen, very funny), is stomped on by a foot that belongs to a long lineage of famous people all in the classic cut-outs later made infamous on Flying Circus. After this story is canned ("The animator responsible has been sacked"), we get the tale of Albert Einstein- the 'other' Einstein, who only held himself in esteem through his hands, who later went on to have an affair with feet. The last story, sort of tacked on as it were, may be the weakest of the three if only because it's ironically a little more loosely structured than the other two stories, and is just a bunch of images from a "Christmas card", where a carriage is chased by a bunch of Indians, and other goodies 'sketched out' in typically deductive Gilliam reasoning (why not bring an arm out to grab and pull away those carolers singing gibberish?)
Overall, it's very fine work from a man who before becoming a madman maverick filmmaker was the resident thespian animator of tasteless satire featuring the crudest drawings and backgrounds and cut-outs, all formed together in a wonderful form. If you're a fan of Gilliam in the slightest, and especially a Python die-hard, it's a must to seek this out online or wherever it might be.
One of Terry Gilliam's early works is an assortment of wacky plots.
"Storytime" goes from story to story, using the types of drawings that
were later commonplace on "Monty Python's Flying Circus". As expected,
he also takes the time to poke fun at the class differences (the
supercilious hands speak scornfully of the feet). Gilliam's bizarre
cartoons show a lot of the tricks that he would later use in his
feature films, of which I've liked every one that I've seen. There can
be no denying that Gilliam is one of the finest filmmakers out there;
his recent movie "The Zero Theorem" is one of the most philosophical
movies that I've ever seen.
Anyway, watch this one if you can find it.
** 1/2 (out of 4)
This early animated short from Terry Gilliam is just as weird and bizarre as you'd expect from him. We start off hearing about an adorable cockroach who enjoys being a cockroach but then that story comes to an end. We then hear the story of Albert Einstein and how none of his neighbors liked him before switching stories to one about a holiday.
STORYTIME isn't necessarily a film I "enjoyed" but at the same time it was so nutty that I couldn't help but be mildly amused by it. The animation itself is quite good but there's just something rather annoying about it that kept me from being more entertained. The nutty manor in which the two final stories are told just didn't sit well with me but I did enjoy the opening sequence with the cockroach. It's fascinating to see that Gilliam showed the same flare in his early work that he would in some of his better known movies.
Terry Gilliam's animations often make people's heads ache or even
explode. That's because the natural human reaction to them is to try to
make sense of it all...but DON'T. This can be very dangerous or at
least lead to your mistaken believe that "this stuff ain't funny". No,
to truly enjoy Gilliam's anarchic artwork, you need to see it and NEVER
question it or think about it--just accept this free-flowing cartoon
for what it is...totally crazy and screwy (you wonder what Gilliam's
childhood was like). When I was a kid and watched "Monty Python's
Flying Circus", I remember my parents coming into the room and seeing
one of these animated shorts playing and their usual reaction was "they
are DEFINITELY on drugs". But, oddly, Gilliam and other Pythons were
NOT on drugs--they were just seriously disturbed...in a good way. I
love the stuff but can certainly understand why many of our overly
serious and uptight individuals don't like the cartoons--they are an
As for STORYTIME, it's a very funny but strange film, as it just meanders about for nine minutes--and anyone looking for a deeper message or coherent narrative will be greatly disappointed. However, just watch and enjoy. This is especially important for the first quarter of the film, as this cockroach story isn't all that funny. Keep watching....seriously, you guys. Like many of Gilliam's cartoons, it changes directions several times. Ultimately, the film ends with a cartoon that appears to be earlier than Gilliam's other work because of its black and white art style. This is the best part...hold on and relax...and enjoy the strangest and funniest stuff which was saved for last. Again and again, I found myself laughing out loud and loved the insane antics of these Christmas cards running amok--in a style only Gilliam could have created. GRRREAT stuff!!
I suppose that Terry Gilliam's sense of humour doesn't quite align with
mine. To date, I've found two masterpieces in 'Brazil (1985)' and
'Twelve Monkeys (1995),' but have never quite understood the
near-universal appeal of the Monty Python clan. I don't want to get
into an argument about the merits of the Python series and movies
(since there are millions of intense fans out there who would order my
assassination), but Gilliam's short film 'Storytime (1968)' displays a
similar brand of random, offbeat humour. This nine-minute film is
divided into three segments, each of which is similar in that they
contain crude drawings, goofy story lines and anti-climactic endings. I
can sort of see what the director's doing here, but I'm just not
getting very many laughs out of it. After all, deliberately-dodgy
animation that deliberately avoids a comedic punchline is still dodgy
animation without a comedic punch-line. Watching the film, at the end
of the day, felt more like a chore that it should have been.
The first story-time segment is about a cheerful cockroach named Don, who scurries throughout his mansion home, walks beneath the floorboards and does unspeakable things in the darkness of the cupboard, before being splatted by somebody's foot. Yep, that's the whole story, though this cockroach apparently has connections in high places. The second segment is about an ordinary man named Albert Einstein ("the only Albert Einstein not to have discovered the Theory of Relativity") whose hands have a life of their own, staying out late at night, misbehaving and committing adultery with feet. The third segment and the most creative, I thought hasn't much story to it at all, and instead concerns the inhabitants of the moving pictures on an over-sized Christmas card, who interact with each other in all sorts of bizarre ways. The funniest example were the Three Wise Men on camels, who are led on a wild-goose chase by the Star of Bethlehem. 'Storytime' is must-see viewing for Gilliam and Python fans, but others should tread more carefully.
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