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Seeing the curious failure of 'Taxandria' at the Architecture Film Festival Rotterdam (who rather amateuristically showed a dubbed German version of the film and then apologized for the lack of subtitles) puts some of the other work of Belgian filmmaker Raoul Servais in sharp relief.

'Taxandria' (1994) is his only feature film, and as in many of his short works it uses a combination of live-action characters and animated sets - in this case designed by François Schuiten, loosely linking the film to his 'Obscure Cities' graphic novels. It results in some beautiful imagery, which unfortunately doesn't manage to make up for the formulaic story and some aggravating acting.

Before that, however, Servais had made a number of surreal short films, notably the apocalyptic satire of 'Operation X-70' (1972) and the nightmarish horror of 'Harpya' (1979), both of which won prizes at the Cannes Film Festival.


And in 2001 he returned with the delightfully absurd 'Atraksion', where he first adopted digital technology to create another seamless blend of animation and live-action. Reminding a bit of 'Balance', it details the efforts of a group of shackled prisoners to escape from their desert world, only to meet another group of prisoners from a mirror world. Following its own inscrutable logic, it may be best described as a hybrid between the Sisyphus and Icarus myths...

See also these notes on Servais' short films, which have been collected on DVD.


carceri d'invenzione

Giovanni Battista Piranesi 's 'Carceri d'Invenzione' ('Imaginary Prisons') are a series of poster-size etchings depicting a dark prison world - though prison is far too tame a word for these vast, nightmarish vaults where tiny figures wa… Read the full post »

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