15 January 2014

The Undertaker and the Dog (葬儀屋と犬, 2010)

Mukashi mukashi.  .  .” (Once upon a time. . .), begins Shin Hashimoto’s 2010 animated short The Undertaker and the Dog (葬儀屋と犬 /Sōgiya to inu, 2010) in the age-old opening of a Japanese fairy tale.  The story continues in the style of a typical fairy story, telling us that in a land far, far away there lived a beautiful princess.  But, if the shaky aesthetic with smeared black ink on an unevenly paint-washed background wasn’t enough to suggest that all is not what it seems in this “fairy tale”, the sight of the madly grinning princess with darkly stained lips and cheeks will surely tip you off that this is no ordinary tale.  Particularly when she runs off towards a modern cityscape and is unceremoniously run down by a taxi cab. 

This is the story of Snow White turned into a horror story.  The dwarves, painted with a smear of yellow gather around her body as flies circle around the red flower that has grown from her belly.  We then see a montage of brief vignettes: the quiet cemetery, a violent mob attacking an object (perhaps a turtle?) with sticks, a close up of a turtle, a large man dragging a cart through the mob.  The large man is the undertaker, who approaches the corpse of the princess but the dwarves try to keep him away from her so he brutally attacks them.  The scene is shot from interesting perspectives including the “camera” itself being punched “in the face” and one dwarf falling on his face with the legs of another fallen dwarf looming in the foreground. 

As the undertaker passes a fence he spots a mangy bitch walking upright on her hind legs with her overlarge breasts heaving as she leads her litter of scruffy, half-starved pups in a somber march.  He reaches into his cart, now teaming with the corpses of the dwarves and offers the bitch one of their bones.  An odd moment of kindness from a man who a moment earlier demonstrated only cruelness and heartlessness.  The atmosphere of this grotesque short is accentuated by the strangely captivating music of Hiromi Ohta

Shin Hashimoto (橋本新, b.1979) is a member of the CALF animation collective.  A Tokyo-based artist, Hashimoto did his undergraduate and graduate studies at Tama Art University (aka Tamabi). Hashimoto is known for his nightmarish animated shorts such as Beluga (2011), which played widely at both domestic and international animation festivals and received a Special Jury Mention at Animafest Zagreb 2012.  Check out his work on Vimeo.  To see the film in full resolution check out the new DVD/Blu-ray L'Animation Indépendante Japonaise, Volume 1.

Catherine Munroe Hotes 2014