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The nightmare of Émile Cohl’s chalk animation is one of unreliable appearances. Fishermen catch fish which eat them whole. Ladders transform into coils which just as suddenly take the form of angry mustachioed soldiers. The human figure at the receiving end of these transmogrifications is subject to all manner of degradations. Genuinely unsettling, THE PUPPET’S NIGHTMARE anticipates Don Hertzfeldt’s stick-figure fantasias by a century.

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