SFotD: A Musical Arms Race Blows Up in ‘Piccolo’

Why Watch? Because Dušan Vukoti? is your new favorite old school Croatian animator, I promise you that. Piccolo is a gleefully ridiculous exercise in allegory, poking fun at the Cold War at its peak. Two neighbors share a house, split down the middle. They lead a quiet, friendly existence until one of them buys a tiny (piccolo) harmonica. His refusal to put the damn thing down, even in the middle of the night, kicks off an arms race in miniature as they try to out-blast each other with an endless progression of instruments.

In a way, this is a musically-minded remake of Norman McLaren’s Oscar-winning Neighbours (1952), but without its bleak sense of humor. Piccolo‘s comedy is beaming, taking advantage of the dynamic character of Vukoti?’s style. A pair of cymbals turns into a bicycle. The walls of the house are punctured by pizzicato. There’s a particularly clever gag involving a bottle of gin. The music used is mostly bombastic and recognizable, classical pieces chosen in the spirit of Chuck Jones. It’s also very well paced, growing louder and louder without reaching the pinnacle of orchestral noise too quickly. The finale, two armies of identically marching soldiers with two decades of totalitarian irony underfoot belting out Verdi choruses, is both bluntly political and charmingly absurd.

Brightly colorful and skillfully animated, it’ll make you think twice about pulling out that guitar after dark.

If you like Piccolo, you should check out Vukoti?’s Oscar-winning Surogat and the delirious Ars Gratia Artis.

What Will It Cost? Around 9 minutes.

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Daniel Walber is a freelance critic living in Brooklyn. He holds a MA in cinema studies from New York University, loves any movie under 80 minutes, and is gay for Bette Davis.

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