Animation Fetishist: The Films of Jim Trainor

The extraordinary animator Jim Trainor, who's about to leave New York to join the faculty at the School of the Art Institute, is fascinated by animals—and the animal nature of humans. The five silent shorts on this program show how, in his use of line, he eschews transcendent abstraction for a messy physicality; in A Net, curved lines seem to rotate in space as if they were ribbons. The Fetishist, the longest of the sound films, depicts William Heirens, the teenage serial killer who terrorized Chicago in the 1940s, with a mix of simple line drawings and photographed fragments that lends a disturbing realness to his weird story (he liked to break into apartments, steal women's underwear, and defecate on the floor). The Bats (1998) and The Moschops are faux nature documentaries in which the animals' physicality and consciousness hint at human traits but remain almost extravagantly animalistic. Trainor avoids the cuteness of Disney and other animators, instead showing and telling us disturbing details of animal life, some true and some invented (in one sequence a young bat has sex “with 42 different girls”).

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