Shirin DVD Shorts

Posted by Dash Shaw on October 2

The DVD of Abbas Kiarostami’s recent Shirin is out and there are two “extra feature” shorts on it that, I think, relate to limited animation. They do in my mind at least. Under the cut I try to explain how:

When I say “limited animation,” I mean Jonny Quest or Speed Racer, cartoons that limit the amount of different drawings on screen. There’s less movement that requires different drawings (people are stiffer) and more things like pans and dissolves, or sliding still images, that don’t require multiple, new drawings. I wrote a bit about this for a Comics Comics blog post on the book The Anime Machine. It’s understandable why limited animation gets a bad rap: it was born out of budgetary concerns. Fewer drawings mean less work and therefore less money. But limited animation animators should think of what they’re doing as just different, a different art form than full animation. It’s the art form of using single non-moving images beautifully, smartly, and these Shirin DVD shorts pertain to that:

Roads of Kiarostami (2005)

The majority of this ½ hour short is black and white still photos of landscapes. Kiarostami zooms in and pans around inside of them and dissolves, one to the next, slowly. Ghostly grey trees appear as the present black ones vanish. Your eye will follow a path as it gradually, almost creepily, transforms into the path in the next still. The dissolve transformations are so considered and mesmerizing; it’s incredible that moving from still image to still image can be so entertaining! It’s the best slideshow you’ll ever see.

Rug (2006)

In this six minute short, Kiarostami looks at a Persian carpet. He travels around the perimeters of the design, moving deeper in at each level, and when he reaches the center the camera pulls back to reveal the whole rug on grass under a tree. This one isn’t a dolly around a still image, but it could be, except for the moving shadows from the tree falling on the carpet. But this short and Roads still show that you don’t need a lot of different moving images (drawings or photos) to make something amazing.

I can’t find either of these online, so you will have to check out the DVD. But there is this documentary from Five Dedicated to Ozu on YouTube, which sort of relates to Blind Date:

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This is a shared production blog for the forthcoming animated feature, "The Ruined Cast," written and directed by Dash Shaw. Produced by John Cameron Mitchell, Howard Gertler, and Biljana Labovic. Contributing artists are Jane Samborski, Frank Santoro, Lily Benson and Ray Sohn. Music by James Lucido.