Heungbu and Nolbu (1967)

I'm not even sure how I came to land on this discovery. I fell into some kind of internet worm hole and this was at the other end.

Heungbu and Nolbu is a Korean folk tale about two adult brothers who are left an inheritance from their father. The older bother, Nolbu, is greedy and hateful so he kicks his brother Heungbu and his family out of the estate so he can have all the money and property to himself.

Despite having plenty of his own problems, the kind and benevolent Heungbu saves a defenseless swallow from a snake and mends his broken leg. The swallow is from magical bird land run by a lady bird queen. To thank Heungbu, the swallow gives him an enchanted gourd seed. He and his family work together to build themselves a modest grass hut to live in. They plant the seed and big green gourd grows, when they cut it in half to eat and suddenly prosperous treasures begin to appear all around them.

Heungbu bashes the snake until it's dead and bloody. This is where the children's begins to feel less wholesome.

Queen of the birds.

When Nolbu discovers the good fortune of his brother, he gets jealous and steals a seed to grow his own magical plant. This is where the film takes a turn for the insane.

Nolbu and his wife are first greeted by a vicious tiger...

...that breathes pink smoke.

Then a fire breathing dragon...

And best of all...

Nolbu and his wife are visited by a variety of spooky ghouls.

Including these absolutely amazing and terrifying Japanese-esque Onryo style female ghosts that look like a cyclops Sadako and green-faced Kayako Saeki. This is not the kind of imagery I'm used to from puppet films in the 60's. I could go on about the story, but why? I was really just leading up to this. These images say it all.

I've found very little information about this South Korean gem. There's a live action version from 1959 that seems to be easily confused with this one on the few sites I've unearthed. It has tinges of Jiri Barta's work and elements of the more recent Blood Tea and Red String by Christiane Cegavske. Despite the shades of horror, it's a bit too traditional to be akin to someone like Jan Svankmajer, though I struggle not to mention that fans of his might get some enjoyment out of this. It's a bit slow to start but once the magical elements take shape, it unfolds into a highly entertaining example of Eastern Kiddie Matinee cinema. I watched it without subtitles, but having a basic knowledge of the folk tale, it wasn't hard to follow along. If you're interested in seeing this one, I could only find it streaming on viewster...

Heungbu and Nolbu

This isn't much of a review. I'm not sure how to be critical of a flick like this. This post serves more to spread the words because as far as I know this has no Western audience what-so-ever. On that note, I'll leave you with all the weird-y cute animals from the film...


Das Triadisches Ballett (1970)

I always felt that ballet was the art of pushing the human body to move naturally in unnatural ways. Das Triadisches does the opposite, these dancers are stiff and inorganic. They glide around like little wind-up toys. Putting you under hypnosis in a minimalist waltz. Developed by Bauhaus mastermind Oskar Schlemmer, who has painting, sculpting, choreography and all areas of design to his credit. He was hired as the Master of Form at the Bauhaus Theater Workshop in 1922. He choreographed many ballets in his duration, Das Triadisches being the most famous.

Translating to "the Triadic Ballet", it unfolds in three parts which can be distinguished by colors and high evocative costumes. Almost unreal geometric figures that's mobility feels rooted in some kind of dark magic. In 1970 is was made into a 29 minute color film directed by Marianne Hasting, Franz Schombs and Georg Verden with a contemporary score by Erich Ferstl.

Part one features a sunshine yellow background with robot-like figures and a faceless ballerina. Emoting a clinical and space-age vibe.


Part two features a very bubblegum inspired pink background and more humanoids...

The male figure looks like a buff Ultraman.

She is too cool for words.

My favorite dance, still part of the second act...

She's like a confectionary work of folk art. Gumdrop skirt and headdress. The music in the sequence is absolutly perfect. I imagine little children in the Bavarian Forest would play with these toys on Christmas day, or something terribly charming like that.

Part three, all in black, possible the most dramatic, expressive and frightening of the three....

This amazing get-up reminds me of a snail, or something aquatic. Maybe she's Venus? There's something mysterious and goddess-like about her.

Then there's these terrifying warrior figures - or at least that's what they seem like to me. Somewhere in between a luchador, a Roman mercenary and a Japanese masked hero - these guys are 100 % no-bullshit. Don't mess with them.

Then we have possibly the most dangerous looking costume. I say this because no one will convince me that her tutu and head piece is not made out of razor wire. In my perception, this black cloaked world is like a very dangerous game of chess and she is the queen. She WILL fuck you up, like a wasp, she was programmed by aliens to destroy us all. God help us.

There is no escape, you are going to die.

The segment ends with this animated figure, which I haven't decided if he represents failure. The inevitable captivity of the player, or if he represents the player himself. You've failed so now you're apart of the world, stuck in a motionless statue.

Of course nothing I've said is true. It's just how watching this makes me feel, which I love. It's one of my favorite things I've seen all year. It experiments with time and movement. I'm convinced that I've fallen into this world of giant dancing toys, like some kind of Bauhausian Wonderland. Filled with both enchanting beings and ghastly villains.

Oskar Schlemmer seemed to have influenced a lot of things I love. Notably my favorite of David Bowie's 70's looks...

On the left, Schlemmer's costume from the early 20's, on the right Bowie wearing a strikingly similar costume by Kansai Yamamoto.

Bowie's Bauhaus inspired boxy tuxedo (Nomi on the right)

Klaus Nomi's iconic simplified German Expressionist version, which I prefer.

And there's something about the ballet that feels like a live action Piotr Kamler film, particularly my favorite of his shorts, One Ephemeral Mission.

And lastly I'm convinced that it influenced Barry Levinson's Toys, particularly Joan Cusack's character...

I promise to review this movie some day. I have plenty to say about it and I want to take no less than 200 screen grabs.

These all have flutters of beauty that are rooted in the Bauhaus movement and at the center is Oskar Schlemmer and his contributions. I couldn't recommend this short film more. So if you please, pour yourself a beverage and take a half hour break from your day to enjoy this quizzical objet d'art.