Chuck Jones Program #8: Upstaging the Arts | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Chuck Jones Program #8: Upstaging the Arts 

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The Film Center's retrospective on legendary animator Chuck Jones concludes with this program of 11 cartoons, dating from 1949 to '65, in which Bugs Bunny and friends encounter the arts, from circus acts to TV commercials. The ones skewering the pomposity of classical-music concerts represent Jones at his best, creating an unhinged hilarity that denies any fixed definition or tradition: Elmer Fudd singing "Kill the Wabbit" in the extravagantly expressionistic, wonderfully nonsensical Wagner pastiche What's Opera, Doc? (1957) is worth the price of admission alone. In Long-Haired Hare (1949), Jones parodies Disney's attempt to marry music and image in Fantasia by having Bugs (disguised as Leopold Stokowski) command an orchestra with the smallest finger gesture. As in Baton Bunny (1959) and Rabbit of Seville (1950), the synchronization is so precise that it creates a disconnect, making the whole process seem absurd. Timing is crucial as well: in Seville the few seconds in which Bugs and Elmer go from hunting each other with ever-larger weapons to appearing as bride and groom are among the more ecstatic in cinema. All are being shown in rare, mostly excellent 35-millimeter studio prints. 85 min. Gene Siskel Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Saturday, March 10, 4:00, 312-443-3737.

--Fred Camper

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