Short Starts is a column devoted to kicking off the week with a short film, typically one tied to a new release. Today we look at an early film by Jim Henson, who created The Muppets.
Is anyone else tired of "The Muppets"? It's not even out yet, but I feel like it's been in my face a little too much lately. For the first time in my life, I think I'm getting sick of Kermit and company. And I've been a huge Muppets fan since birth. Maybe I'm just developing a safety mechanism so the hype doesn't get the better of me, and when I finally get the chance to see the film I won't be disappointed. Perhaps I'm just bitter at all those who've seen it before me and won't shut up about it.
Whatever the case may be, I'm taking a break from the Muppet love this morning to focus on their maker and some of his early non-Muppet work. Specically, the starter short of the week is Jim Henson's 1965 film "Time Piece," a surreal, rhythmic work that was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Live Action Short (it lost to Claude Berri's "La Poulet") and was distributed theatrically via Pathe (it was attached to Claude Lelouch's "A Man and a Woman" in NYC). Why are shorts not distributed like this today? And why aren't any as cool and weird?
I have to admit that at the Museum of the Moving Image's Henson exhibit this year, I was more interested in "Time Piece" than any of the Muppet stuff on display. Somehow I'd never seen it before. It's like Maya Deren with a sense of humor (that said, I'd love to have seen Deren create kid shows and movies...) with some obvious influences from animator Mary-Ellen Bute (whose husband, Ted Nemeth, was cinematographer on this film) and more mainstream cinema, as well. Muppet fanatics will appreciate that the film includes appearances from regular Henson collaborators Jerry Juhl, Don Sahlin, Diana Birkenfield and Frank Oz (then Frank Oznowicz).
Watch it via Myspace below. It may take a bit to load, but it's totally worth it. If you wish, though, you can get it easier and probably better quality at iTunes for a price. And read more about the short over at Muppet Wiki.
Here are four more early Henson-directed experimental shorts, courtesy of the Henson Company YouTube channel:
"Run, Run," another short from '65 starring daughters Cheryl and Lisa Henson as young girls:
"Wheels That Go," a short from '67 starring son Brian Henson as a boy:
"Ripples," another short from '67, produced for a contest at the Montreal Expo67:
"Paperwork Explosion," a commissioned film for IBM from '67: