University of Chicago’s Doc Films has returned after a brief hiatus with its summer programming, and one of the most exciting screenings of the entire season happens this Wednesday when select films from George Griffin, one of the most influential and important independent animators in American film history, are screened in 16-millimeter. His films are fairly accessible—you can purchase a DVD of his work on his website or visit his personal Vimeo page where, for the last eight months, he’s intermittently posted digital versions of some—but the opportunity to see these 16-milllimeter prints is a rare treat.
Griffin’s style of animation is inherently modernist, seeking to illuminate not only the history of the form but also the intricacies of his own process as well as personal history. His filmography is one of shifting tones and themes; a large part of his genius is revealed in the way he ties his amorphous style to the work itself. Sometimes his ever-developing aesthetic would take the form of documentary: his 1975 short Head begins with himself standing in medium close-up, describing how his creative preoccupations began as a child and how they changed as he grew to adulthood. From there, he utilizes forms of documentary, stop-motion, and flip art, as well as elements of anachronistic sound and music, to illustrate his process.