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Sita and comedic reveal

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Luckily, I was able to meet Nina Paley and watch her inspirational film Sita Sings the Blues at last May’s FMX in Stuttgart, Germany. Since then, I’ve been following her struggle with distribution, copyright and (if I recall correctly) lice. I continue to be in awe of her achievement in making this film, and the qualities of the film itself. against that background I stumbled across this review by Roger Ebert.

In this wonderful review of a wonderful film, Ebert says something of central relevance to npr and stylistic development:
One remarkable thing about “Sita Sings the Blues” is how versatile the animation is. Paley works entirely in 2-D with strict rules, so that characters remain within their own plane, which overlaps with others. This sounds like a limitation. Actually, it is the source of much amusement. Comedy often depends on the device of establishing unbreakable rules and then finding ways to cheat on them and surprise you. The laughs Paley gets here with 2-D would be the envy of an animator in 3-D. She discovers dimensions where none exist.

The appeal of npr stems in part from limitations surmounting themselves. This is true not only of what happens in the animation, as Ebert observes, but to some degree in the animation itself. The cut-out concentric circles are received by the viewer as two things at once… simultaneously, they are vector cg graphics and Sita’s eye. They are a transformation. While this true of illustration as well, it is more evident when viewing animation. This transformation is suspended, held in levitation – and our brains are subtly tickled in a way that is related to the functioning of comedic surprise. The artist’s pen is a suspended ‘reveal’ – and the eye lingers in hopes of catching the device’s resolution. At least, I suspect so. This would help explain why animated content is repeatedly viewed. .

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drip | david’s really interesting pages… says:
02/02/2009

[...] these paper-cut sculptures wonderful illustrations of the idea of the reveal I touched upon in my Sita post. These works depict two ideas that overlap in one and the same space – a cut-out paper silhouette [...]

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