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The Secret Adventures of Tom Thumb, September 11

Genetic Screenings

Thursday, September 11, 2003
Dave Borthwick (U.K., 1993)

After something goes awry at the artificial insemination plant, Ma Thumb gives birth to a very tiny Tom, just inches tall in a full-size world. But what a world—slimy things slither amidst the fetid streets of a postindustrial wasteland where the "normal" folks mumble and scratch. When word of Tom gets out, he is abducted by a sinister government duo and taken to the Department of Cytogenetics to undergo bizarre experiments. As dismal as it may seem, The Secret Adventures of Tom Thumb is actually a stunning display of stop-motion animation, combining pixillated humans with models for a most curious and inspired retelling of a feral fairytale. Tom himself is almost featureless, as though he were unfinished, an innocent unblemished by the dank world around him. Central to this nightmare is the lab with its botched mutants and the diabolic Imp Chamber containing a transformative energy source. Recalling other twisted animators like Jan Svankmajer, Borthwick's deranged masterpiece imagines a place where devolution is working its way up the food chain.

—Steve Seid

• Written by Borthwick. Animation by Borthwick, Frank Passingham, Lee Wilton. Music by The Startled Insects, "Tom Thumb" Theme by John Paul Jones. With Nick Upton, Deborah Collard, Frank Passingham, John Schofield. (61 mins, Color, 35mm, From Palm Pictures)

Preceded by animated shorts:

Hello, Dolly!
(Mariko Hoshi, U.S., 1999). Whose dream is this anyway? An insomniac counts cloned sheep and wakes to a biotechnical nightmare. (3:10 mins, Color, Video, From the artist)

The Donor Party
(Laurence Arcadias, U.S., 1993). In an isolated mansion, an unexpected guest discovers very gothic goings-on. A slice of this, a slice of that, and who knows what strange creatures can be composed. (4 mins, Color, Video, From the artist)

Metronome Heart
(James Ross, U.S., 2001). A lonely boy desperately wants a playmate. In neo-Frankensteinian fashion, he builds one. (6:40 mins, Color, Video, From the artist)

(Total running time: 75 mins)