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Animations

A skinny, naked girl struggles wildly to escape the stuffy living room where she’s kept by a man in a red suit in Nathalie Djurberg’s haunting claymation short There ain’t no pill. Djurberg’s plasticine figures resemble a child’s tattered old puppets, but she adds strange and poignant details — a mustache on the man, wild eyes on the girl — that make them seem human, and the story, driven by the girl’s relentless attempts to flee, seethe with the threat of violence. The disjuncture between the animation’s childlike feel and the lurking threat of danger is disarming, as is the powerful desire to see how it all turns out. The Hammer’s generically titled “Animations” program of four shorts also includes Brent Green’s Hadacol Christmas, another handmade piece,featuring a skinny, irritable old Santa Claus who downs pints of cough syrup while wandering despondently around his workshop, which is filled with bony blackbirds and dancing mice. Green shows us the outlines of the animation cells layered on top of each other and the bits of Scotch tape he uses to hold things in place. The lack of polish only adds to the depravity of the portrait of Claus as a miserable old curmudgeon. The true charm of the film, however, is Green’s voice as he mutters the poetic lines of voice-over: It’s low and scratchy and moves with a captivating urgency that makes you want to lean forward to hear more. (Hammer Museum; thru Sept. 10. 310-443-7000 or www.hammer.ucla.edu)

—Holly Willis

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