Archangel Gabriel


Director: Jiri Trnka

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

Roman s basou Seven minutes of Jiri Trnka's stop-motion puppet-animation, Story of the Bass Cella (Roman s Basou, 1949) is based on a tale by Anton Chekov.

A cellist sitting by a pond decides to take off his clothes (except for his tophat) & go wading in the water.

He encounters on the opposite bank a beautiful young woman sleeping behind her fishing pole, & he imagines her a winged angel, love at first sight.

The puppets exude a sentimental sweetness of emotion. The naked man in tophat runs into a field of flowers & picks a bouquet, wading back to the sleeping fisherwoman & leaving her the flowers.

At dusk the fisherwoman takes off her clothes to go wading, alarmed to discover a naked man already in the pond, under the bridge.

Roman s basouThey attempt to assist one another's modesty, resulting in the maiden hiding inside the gentleman's cello case on top of the bridge as night envelops the moonlit scene.

Why neither can get their clothes isn't revealed in the film, but soon the naked man is carrying his cello case with the naked lady inside through the darkness, apparently getting lost.

Meanwhile at the nearby mansion a group of musicians are impatiently awaiting their cello player. As it gets later & later, some of the musicians set out to find the missing man, who has momentarily set the heavy cello case aside.

The search party finds the cello case by the pond & assumes the musician drowned. They carry the case back to the manse not knowing there's a naked lady inside it. It's a very silly comedy of manners with slapstick ingredient, & easily wins a warm smile.

Archangel Gabriel & Lady Goose Archangel Gabriel & Lady Goose (Archandel Gabriel a pani Husa, 1964) is a stunning animated puppet-cartoon, based on a raunchy medieval tale by Giovanni Boccaccio.

Its first scenes were created with paper cut-outs. The story begins with a medieval sinner picking a pocket, running off to an affair, then leaves the woman with child never to see her again, eventually arriving in Veniecia.

In Venecia, Jiri Trnka's usual stopmotion puppetry takes over. A strange lump of a figure is sleeping in the street. He awakens at dawn & stretches out his ragged cloak, which looks just like the wings of an angel even though made burlap. Even his face is wrapped in the burlap, no feature visible; when we finally see his face, he is monstrously bug-eyed & deeply creased, like a dried up apple-head.

This mysterious figure enters a church & from a nook high above the congregation uses his burlap wings to conduct an unusual concert with images of angels & virgin saints drifting in air. The congregants apparently accept him as their new priest, though he seems more demonic than priestly.

Archangel Gabriel & Lady GooseThe eerie dark priest begins to play a bone like a flute then uses it as a conductor's wand until the drifting translucent angels disperse & the virgin saints despair.

The dark priest appears to pass out from exhaustion & the bone drops to the floor, where a tiny dog runs out from among the pews & carries the big relic away.

As the cloaked figure descends into the gallery, the congregants stand & sing. The doomful priest harrasses beautiful women & is especially fond of large breasts.

A particular beauty with haughty manners enters the church & begins her private reveries until the frightening burlap-winged priest calls her into the confessional. The creature whispers through the confessional window to the beauty, but she repeatedly shakes her head "no," as she intends never to give her virginity to anyone but the Archangel Gabriel himself.

One night when the dim vain virgin is praying before a sacred painting of Gabriel, & periodically scanning the night sky looking for the arrival the Gabriel, a masked figure dressed as the archangel climbs a ladder to a ledge that leads to the window to the virgin's bedroom.

Archangel Gabriel & Lady GooseThe fraudulant Gabriel with voluminous white robes & goose-wings on his back steps into her room with a holy flourish.

The virgin gives it up to him without a moment's hesitation & they make love beneath the covers until the candles have burnt low.

The next morning she goes to the confessional, & the dark robed priest with burlap wings takes her confession, blushing the whole while.

The ex-virgin goes about the church full of self-importance, maltreating those she perceives as beneath herself & bragging to everyone about her angel lover.

The dark priest becomes haunted by his sin, as a portrait of Gabriel turns red-cheeked, a portrait of Luther scowls ever more heavily, & sundry condemnatory figures gaze at him from behind their own bird-beaked masks. He climbs to the cathedral roof dressed as Gabriel & leaps suicidally, but lands in a canal & swims to the bank.

An old man finds an infant left beside the canal near the cathedral, the bastard of the Lady Goose & the dark priest. The old man to punish the false priest glues feathers to his naked hide & drags him into the abby courtyard chaining him to a fountain, where he's found at cockcrow.

As for the boastful proud lady, she loses her mind & obsessively plucks "angel" feathers from geese accumulating in her nun's cell.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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