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A wisp of smoke encounters other disenfranchised beings in the city of Los Angeles

Los Angeles based writer, animator and art-educator Miranda Javid wrote this film under an examining theory of animation which is detailed in a wider sphere of work beyond the film: texts, and discussions.

The first essay, entitled All About My Girls, considers the ethics of representing a queer inter-racial sex scene in Smokes’ Last Thought. The second, The Skin is the Largest Sack, addresses the highly pertinent subject of labour in animation.

Smoke's Last Thought is a film influenced by Javid's own everyday experiences in Los Angeles, combined with her extended research on psychology behind animation. The film follows a wisp of smoke as she rises through Los Angeles while mourning her imminent disappearance. In the midst of her nervous breakdown, she encounters other disenfranchised beings, the Other bodies of the city, and the intervening self of a form that is no longer singular.

Words taken from:

Javid << The key idea comes from Esther Leslie’s amazing book, Hollywood Flatlands. In the book, she outlines some of Walter Benjamin’s ideas from an unpublished fragment on Mickey Mouse from 1931. Benjamin thought that Mickey of the 1920’s was an incredibly hopeful, but modern take on the cruel and very adult world of post-war modernity. He wrote about animation as the place where a character could lose a limb and see it reattached without much stress on the character, something the post-war veterans would have loved to fantasize about. There are major critics to Benjamin’s view on animation, especially when in the 1930’s Disney started selling merch and becoming real family friendly, but in the book, Leslie focused on refining Benjamin’s ideas by exploring ‘elasticity’ in animation, in general—the idea that it is the infinite pliability, the stretchiness of the form, that made animation such a powerful medium. Rubber hose and the early animations of the 1920’s were especially stretchy, making those characters especially resistant to trauma and better advocates for the everyday underdog or mouse.

I found, in her text I could finally explain why I was pivoting so hard into animation. It was a subconscious instinct to try and re-access the revolutionary power of those early cartoons. This realization and a series of bouts of mental illness were inspiration for my main character’s depressive angst in Smoke, and her relative resilience as an endlessly elastic being.

I take these long walks across Los Angeles, sometimes traversing a couple of miles and passing through supposedly un-walkable territories (where lots of under-represented Angelenos live, walk and work). I get ideas on these walks. I see things I couldn’t have thought of by myself. In a film that zoomed out on a larger Los Angeles in the second half, I found getting outside was essential, like working from life for painters or something. >>