Saturday, November 17, 2007

Animation Shorts

I returned to the SF International Animation Festival last Saturday for 2 of the shorts programs.

Best of Annecy 2007
Shaun the Sheep “Still Life” (Sadler Christopher, England, 7 min) -- Hilarious Aardman clay animation skit about a farmer's day out with an easel & paints. One clever joke after another. Completely in the style of Wallace & Gromit. In fact the sheep dog with an iPod even looks like a beady-eyed Gromit.
Beton (Michael Faust, Ariel Belinco, Israel, 6 min) -- Absurdist political commentary about the wall in Israel. A military post takes extreme measures to shoot down a kite appearing above the wall.
Welcome to White Chapel District (Marie Viellevie, France, 5 min) -- This one I did not get. A recitation of the grisly deeds of Jack the Ripper illustrated with crude schematics & stop-motion photography.
Devochka Dura (Zojya Kireeva, Russia, 7 min) -- Humorous vignettes about a decidedly individual pre-school girl trying to get the attention of one of her classmates. Animated in loose, fluid pencil drawings.
The Pearce Sisters (Luis Cook, England, 9 min) -- Gruesome tale of 2 sisters leading a hard, isolated life on the English coast. Nasty events ensue when a shipwrecked sailor is rescued from the sea. Clearly meant to be humorously macabre, this is the kind of story that only animation can make palatable.
Premier Voyage (Grégoire Sivan, France, 10 min) Charming clay animation recounting a new father's train journey with his 10-month old daughter. Very philosophical & very French voice-over by the bemused dad.
The Runt (Andreas Hykade, Germany, 10 min) -- Sinister & unrelentingly cruel coming-of-age story told in a visually pared-down & abstract style.
t.o.m. (Tom Brown, Daniel Benjamin Gray, England, 3 min) -- Off-beat vignette about a school boy's peculiar & ritualistic journey from home to school. The traditional cel-animation look of the piece sets us up for a puzzling punch line. Narration, character & animation all work together here.
Méme les Pigeons Vont au Paradis (Samuel Torneux, France, 9 min) -- Satirical story about a country priest in France racing with death for the soul of an old man. In the end, death appears to be the only honest man around. Looks like it was 3-D computer animated. Slapstick but with a surprising moment of gore at the end.

I like programs like this, each short in a different style & from a different country, & each one having a punch at the end. When the lights came up after the last one, I was sorry that the program was over already.

Maker’s Dozen
Raymond (Bif, France, 5 min) -- Stop-motion animation of a live actor who is put through his paces as a human guinea pig being treated with substances that affect his locomotion in abrupt ways. It's extreme slap-stick.
Sleeping Betty (Claude Cloutier, Canada, 10 min) -- Satirical take on the fairy tale, drawn in a rich children's story book style. The animator's sense of humor is very particular, & it took me a little time to start getting the jokes. It's sort of a Mad Magazine look at the story. This animator was at the screening. His film took 5 years to do!
Sundance Forgetfulness (Julian Grey, Canada, 2 min) -- A voice-over about the impossibility of retaining experience, illustrated by live-action film clips in which major visual elements have been whited-out, perhaps by hand.
How She Slept at Night (Lilli Carre, USA, 4 min) -- I didn't get this one at all. In the voice-over a man recounts memories of his wife. This is illustrated with lightly animated drawings. The content repeats 3 times with minor variations.
One D (Mike Grimshaw, Canada, 5 min) -- Taking graphic design to an extreme, a night out at the movies is depicted in a world where everything is no more than a one-dimensional line.
Naked (Sex) (Mischa Kamp, Netherlands, 6 min) -- A real-audio interview with a young person (a pre-teen perhaps?) about his close-calls with sex is illustrated with crude, perhaps rotoscoped, drawings. Maybe it's just me & where I am in my life, but I find this kind of content completely uninteresting.
The Forest in Winter (Jake Portman, Bill Sneed, England/USA, 5 min) -- A crazed mash-up of Little Red Riding Hood in an artsy Soviet style, complete with stilted Russian voice-over, & a loud Japanese snack food commercial. It's a sensory assault, but I have no idea what the point was.
Lovesport: Paintballing (Grant Orchard, England, 2 min) -- A paintball war animated in the style of an early video game. Each skirmish ratchets up the level of violence, though the players are only rendered as abstract geometric shapes. It's just one joke, but it's brief.
Today (Jerry Van De Beek, Betsy De Fries, USA, 2 min) -- TV spot illustrating a joyful Billie Collins poem.
Pingpongs (George Gendi, England, 6 min) -- This one I didn't quite get. Real audio conversation between an elderly husband & wife, full of inanities & knowing pauses, illustrated by crude line drawings of their heads.
Wolf Daddy (Chang Hyung-Yun, South Korea, 10 min) -- Hilarious dead-pan parody of an anime feature film. I'm not an anime fan, but this film is so absurd that even I could recognize the targets of the jokes. There's an over-sized but benign animal, an innocent child, & the continual unexplained juxtapositions of the fantastical with the mundane.
Madame Tutli-Putli (Chris Lavis, Maciek Szczerbowski, Canada, 17 min) Creepy scenario about a woman who takes a nightmarish train journey symbolizing the end of her life. Scary imagery & animated puppets with eerily life-like eyes create a paranoid vision of the world. The animators were present at the screening, & in the Q & A they revealed the secret: Real eyes were filmed & composited into the stop-motion animation. It took 4 years!
Court Order—In Memoriam Peter Mansfeld (Zoltan Szilagyi Varga, Hungary, 8 min) -- A reading of the official documentation of the trial & execution of a political prisoner, illustrated with minimal animation of black & white drawings. I found this one difficult to appreciate. While the subject is clearly important, I wasn't sure how the animation was supporting the story.

This program wasn't as strong as the 1st one, but Madame Tutli-Putli is not to be missed. Interestingly, at the end of the program, the animators remarked that the film isn't as dark as it appeared at the screening. My impression is that the projection method used for the program made everything too dark. I don't know how the program was projected, but it was not film. It may have been video instead.

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