Thursday, February 21, 2013

For Scent-imental Reasons (1949)

WHO: Directed by Chuck Jones, this is one of two Academy-Award-winning films he made in 1949. Although both awards went to his producer Edward Selzer, Jones remains the only director to have made films that have won Oscars in both the animated short category and the documentary short category during the same year.

WHAT: This is the first cartoon of the long-running series of Pepé Le Pew shorts produced at the Warner Brothers studio in which Pepé's character is fully-developed. In his first two appearances (Odor-Able Kitty and Scent-imental Over You) the passionate polecat's name is not Pepé but "Stinky", and in the former cartoon is in fact revealed at the end to be an American-accented philanderer named Henry only trying on a Charles Boyer impression. (This is probably the most zoologically logical explanation for a skunk to have a French accent; the Mephitidae family has no representatives native to Europe, although it occurs to me that he could in fact be a Québécois). An unnamed, nonverbal skunk with a Pepé-esque appearance also makes a cameo in the 1946 Fair And Worm-er, and is the focus of the 1948 Art Davis-directed cartoon Odor Of The Day, in which he acts totally uncharacteristically (read: unlasciviously). For Scent-imental Reasons begins a string of thirteen cartoons made over an equal number of years, all but one (Really Scent) directed by Jones, in which the skunk is definitely French, definitely attracted to female cats with white stripes painted down their backs, and definitely full of himself. In other words, definitely Pepé.

WHERE/WHEN: Tonight at 8PM at Oddball Fillms. Seating is limited, so it's best to RSVP by e-mailing or calling ahead at (415) 558-8117. 

WHY: Oddball is the only screening local venue I can think of, other than perhaps the Paramount, which plays Warner Brothers cartoons on a semi-regular basis. Although I hope some Frisco Bay programmer decides to organize a 35mm screening of Chuck Jones films to coincide with the Cartoon Art Museum's current exhibition of static art produced by the most famous member of the Termite Terrace team of directors, I'll take what I can get, and for now, this appears to be the only opportunity to see a Jones film projected on film in the near future.

HOW: Oddball usually screens only 16mm prints from its own collection. For Scent-imental Reasons screens on a program of Oscar-nominated films and clips from past Oscar ceremonies, also including Saul Bass's Why Man Creates, Mel Brooks's The Critic, Isaac Hayes performing the "Theme From Shaft" at the 1972 ceremony, and an excerpt from one of that year's strangest winners, The Hellstrom Chronicle, which I saw in full at Oddball last December and called an "Eco-malthusian approach to arthropods as scientifically suspect as creationism but WAY more fun". I can't believe it actually won the Best Documentary Feature Oscar. 

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