Whatever happens when left-field hip-hop artist Flying Lotus and avant-garde animated film “Heaven & Earth Magic” collide Friday at the Ann Arbor Film Festival, logic will not be a presiding factor.
“Heaven & Earth Magic” with Flying Lotus
Friday at 7 p.m.
The Michigan Theater
Tickets from $7
Harry Smith, the mastermind behind the 1962 film “Heaven & Earth Magic,” led an incredibly eclectic lifestyle until his death in 1991, compiling the Anthology of American Folk Music in 1952, creating his own set of tarot cards and directing a number of experimental films.
“Heaven & Earth Magic” is certainly a marker of Smith’s bohemian existence. The film is 66 minutes of cutout animation, consisting of the extended, dreamlike interplay between various recurring objects against a black backdrop. With heavy Surrealist and Dada influences, the film is lucid but utterly random. One sequence features a glorified stick figure pulling a watermelon out of a sarcophagus and placing it on a postcard depicting more watermelons, while a cat sits and watches.
“Heaven & Earth Magic” strikes an uncanny balance between childlike naivety and ghastly morbidity, conflating images of death and brutality in a winkingly cartoonish manner. At one point, an aristocratic-looking lady is smashed multiple times by a child with a hammer, changing shape with each blow until she becomes a writhing crane-like appendage on a dentist’s chair and is injected with a mammoth syringe. And skeletons crop up all over the place as the film’s creatures move freely between states of life and death. Anything can morph into anything else at any point and laws of physics need not apply.
Smith was of the mindset that his films should be set to contemporary music and, consequently, his animations have often been accompanied by live scores (Philip Glass and DJ Spooky have both lent their music to his films).
Friday, electronica prodigy Flying Lotus will be premiering his live musical score for “Magic,” and it should be an earful. Known primarily — but rather anonymously — for having composed the promo music for Cartoon Network’s “Adult Swim,” the great nephew of the late Alice Coltrane has released two equally stellar studio albums (1983 and Los Angeles), and is dropping a third, Cosmogramma featuring Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, on May 3.
Lotus’s songs are like shapeshifting hourglasses, gravitating more toward the cerebral side of hip hop than the bang-yo-head side. His beats are spacey without being ambient, hitting hard but scraping along skittishly as if they’re on the constant verge of falling apart. And if his penchant for brain-melting noises is manifested at all Friday, then there’s no doubt the exhibition will be a hallucinatory assault on the senses.