Friday, July 7, 2017
This Is It Folks!
I've become obsessed with Ralph Bakshi's 1975 animated commentary "Coonskin" as of late; it's unabashed, it's creative, it's stylish, and it's never afraid to blurt it's loud mouth left and right.
I woke up after - yet again - unexpectedly passing out with music related to the film buried in my mind. Like a long treasured memory, or, perhaps, even an instinctual commodity; the bass soaked, horn veering and all-around delightfully retro jam of a track found it's way into the depth of my skull.
Wandering to the basement - probably to set a scene not dissimilar to the vignette currently on this blog's sidebar (albeit perhaps with a Disney feature rather than a drive-in horror picking) - that orchestra of noise carried every step. I'm a person of which is weighed heavily upon by my own mentality; for better, usually, but on an emotional level it can tend to be for the worse. However - entirely inexplicably - the visuals and sounds rattling right through the seams in my head seemed to burn the dead masses I often found still clinging to my ankles. How - Why - I'm not entirely sure. Is it the tempo? The colors?
I suppose, thematically - the reason would be the unafraid nature of the very subject matter itself. This is not a review, nor an overview; however, as is likely apparent by the poster alone (featured as this writing's headline artwork), the film has no censor for it's choices of satirical imitation. Though further detail is easy to find in a variety of interesting articles covering the cultural depths Coonskin resides in, to clarify - the entire setting, a Blaxploitation film set in Toontown, is a harsh, violent and hotheaded attack on the popular stereotypes paraded as 'truthful'. By using these images and themes, it assaults them. Coonskin has a mind behind it's striking imagery. A mind hiding behind jazzy, gun-slinging rabbits, making deals with bouncy mafia members, taking down lively pop icons, and generally having a hell of a time.
It's abstract thinking. But somehow that very concept - this upfront mimicry, totally driven by creative impulse and a fair dosage of pride - seems to have sparked with my mind.
I began writing this article after flipping through my copy of "Good News for Modern Man", a 1971 modern translation of the Bible. Something about the following words took the air from my lungs entirely.
"Do not love the world or anything that belongs to the world. If you love the world, you do not have the love for the Father in you. Everything that belongs to the world - what the sinful self desires, what people see and want, and everything in this world that people are so proud of - none of this comes from the Father; it all comes from the world. The world and everything in it that men desire is passing away; but he who does what God wants lives forever."
Coonskin parodies the commonplace racial tropes of old, but also uses this weighty setting to create a parallel to our own world. Through the film, death and sin is rampant; material is the one and only goal in the lives of not only our leads, but, in fact, just about every character. A man poses as a religious figure - promising an ethnic revolution - only to be revealed to the masses as a money hogging, shady and entirely false prophet. An alluded to husband leaves his partner simply because he cannot offer anything of his own to the cooperative 'deal' of a relationship. Our lead character - after rising to the very ultimate reaches of society - ultimately leaves it all, simply looking forward to the next accomplishment.
The worldly values that govern our sinful nature are dust. They come and go, as the bullets fly through the air. Little can lead to the end; the end can lead to far more. In the grand, unimaginable scheme of life, nothing matters besides that trust in that, one way or another, life is not far from the twisted chain of events well embellished in Coonskin. Life is a series of dark paths, diverging from a clear road. They are all too appealing, all to enticing. Yet all lead to a death; all lead to another corpse on the ground.
When you see the world as it would be illustrated on paper, you begin, too, to see yourself as a concept. A cartoon. Where will you - the man behind the pencil - lead yourself to next? Or, perhaps, where are you destined to be driven?
Will you choose the easy sketch - or the elaborate, intricate, majestic illustration?