Friday, 14 November 2008

Now Hear This




Chuck Jones is definitely one of my favourties. More than anyone else, I think I admire him for finding a way to make a balance between working within the studio system and producing work of real artistic integrity. For those who don't know, he was one of the key animation Directors at the Warner Brothers animation studio - the great 'evil empire', particularly in the 1950s who could challenge Disney's reign.

There are a few films by Jones that are recognised as classics - and rightly so. Duck Amuck is one, What's Opera Doc? is another and One Froggy Evening is another one. I adore all of these films but there is one called Now Hear This which I think is as good as any of those others, and for some reason it gets ignored.

Jones talked about it as though it was put there primarily to antagonise the studio heads of the time (early 60s - the tail end of WB's animation heyday) by being esoteric, but it's so much more than that. The sound designer at WB was a guy called Treg Brown. If you watch WB/ Looney Tunes while paying particular attention to the sound, you''ll see that although the image and sound effects should be incongruous, they actually fit perfectly. That's sort-of what this film is about. But in this film, it's not just incongruity - I think that the sound expresses metaphors for the images in a sense.

A quick word on metaphors though - every metaphor contains a source and a target domain. If one says, "your room is a pig sty" then your room is the domain and the pigsty is the target. So you have to look for common properties between the room and the pig sty. Does the room have hay in it? No. Does the room have low ceilings? No. Is the room messy, like a pig sty? Yes.

So you'll see in this film such things as a bird singing a song, and the man hears a melody from a music box - this seems like a metaphor to me. What are the common properties between a bird song and a music box? They are both sweet and melodic, perhaps. They have an innocent, twee quality. Another example - bubbles fly into the man's face, accompanied by the sound of laughter. What is the common property here? Perhaps both are a cacophony of short, succint utterances. Hmm - not sure if there's a better way of saying that. At the same time, the laughter also expresses offscreen voices, which laugh at the trick played on the man.

Anyway, I've talked enough. Hope you like the film!

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