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Experimental animation doesn’t get enough love, but it’s an incredibly exciting, historically rich part of cinema. The Criterion Channel currently has a great lineup of such films from around the world, nearly all of which are worth checking out if you want animation made outside the mainstream. And here are three more films which animate everyday objects, create hallucinatory landscapes, and do more outside what we usually expect of cartoons.

Asparagus (1979)

Suzan Pitt’s groundbreaking short is a delicious, at times raunchy daydream. The title veggie features as a sexual, oneiric object whose powers invade both a woman’s house and a local theater she visits, entrancing an unsuspecting audience. Pitt brought her background in painting to her animation, incorporating intense fluid lines and dense colors. They flesh out her wicked feminist-tinged humor in immensely satisfying ways.

On Criterion Channel.

Renaissance (1963)

The Franco-Polish bad boy of directors, Walerian Borowczyk is most infamous for his erotic costume dramas like Immoral Tales (1973), but he was also a pioneer in European illustration and animation. In this masterful black-and-white stop-motion short, ordinary objects — a doll, a trumpet, a stuffed owl — emerge from ashes and become animate, only to decompose again. It’s hard not to read the somber metaphor for post-World War II Europe.

Circumstantial Pleasures (2020)

Lewis Klahr is one of the most renowned living independent American animators, turning collages of imagery from many different sources into allegorical stories. This episodic feature is a reeling look at late capitalism, featuring recurring motifs like waddled dollar bills and numbers, pulsating dots, ordinary objects, and cutout figures from cartoons à la Lichtenstein. In the chapter Ratchet the margin, a parade of alluring food brands underscores how essential goods, such as food and medical care, are now branded commodities.

On MUBI.

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Ela Bittencourt

Ela Bittencourt is a critic and cultural journalist, currently based in São Paulo. She writes on art, film and literature, often in the context of social issues and politics.