short takes (2)

Nobody makes cartoons like Sally Cruikshank. Beginning as an artist (she shares her surname, after all, with a great illustrator of Dickens) she soon moved to film, bringing to life and movement her whimsical fantasies of life, love, and -- especially -- ducks. In its ongoing Cineprobe series, New York's Museum of modern Art recently invited Cruikshank to introduce her collected works, from early "paper" cartoons to more recent and more complex "cel" animations. All her works show enormous respect for the old '30s and '40s cartoon traditions, with their animated animals and bouncy soundtracks. To these elements, Cruikshank adds a dark resonance all her own, underscoring the ineffable childhood mysteries that course through all great film cartoons. Cruikshank's main characters, two ducks named Quasi and Anita, will probably never reach the heights of fame accorded such stars as Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny. But they are unique creations for all that, embodying Cruikshank's sharp commentary on contemporary experience -- which often resembles, to quote a Cruik shank title, "Life on Mars."

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