DVD Review: 'Franz Kafka's A Country Doctor & Other Fantastic Films by Koji Yamamura'By: Simon Abrams
Though Koji Yamamura knowingly appropriates and incorporates the hallmark style of artists like Salvador Dali, the Brothers Quay and Franz Kafka into his revelatory short films, his style is all his own. His anime is vivid, reveling in the possibilities of its medium. Imaginary sounds play as big a role in his short films as Yamamura's lurid visual house style, which unarguably has, to date, reached its apex in Franz Kafka's A Country Doctor. Special attention is paid to the creaking of horse's hooves, the howling of the wind that propels a blizzard as it slowly envelops a country landscape comprised of disembodied eyes and noses. Sensory information buffets the viewer and it's done with such consummate skill that you don't realize just how much detail Yamamura has thrown at you until you immediately devour again a second, then a third time. You watch these shorts in awe and the second time around, you force yourself to try to digest the plot instead of just marveling at the visuals, the perplexing sound design and you try in vain to understand why naked doctors are hurtling through the countryside on horseback. And it still doesn't make sense but damn if it doesn't like inspired chaos.
If Franz Kafka's A Country Doctor & Other Fantastic Films by Koji Yamamura, Zeitgeist Video's exciting primer on Yamamura's shorts, is any indication, the man's ability to distill abstracted thoughts into noises and disturbingly vivid images is limitless. Spanning hand-drawn animated shorts drawn from 1987 to 2007's Franz Kafka's A Country Doctor, this new dvd is the first major step in getting Yamamura recognized as the creative dynamo that he is. Many of Yamamura's cartoons are, as odd as it sounds, whimsically cynical. They externalize the neuroses of their protagonists to the point where these primal fears overwhelm and even absorb the natural world that nurtured them. Mt. HeadYour Choice!, a short written in collaboration with a school of Chicago grade schoolers, follows a young crocodile as he decides whether to go to the dentist or to get a haircut (spoiler: he gets the haircut). Franz Kafka's A Country Doctor, really and truly the best of the bunch, follows an old doc as he hurries to get away from a patient for fear that his wife is being man-handled by the lascivious stable boy (well, really more like a lascivious stable man). In Yamamura's world, mundane tumult regularly blossoms into surreal anarchy.