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Animation Documentary Features Live Action Movies

My Favorite War

Director – Ilze Burkovska Jacobsen – 2020 – Latvia, Norway – 77m

****

Autobiographical documentary employs cut-out animation to describe a childhood in Latvia when it was part of the Soviet UnionGlasgow Film Festival Thursday, February 25th to Sunday, February 28th

In World War Two. Latvia was caught between the Nazis and the Russians. After the Nazis capitulated, the country was absorbed into the Soviet Union. Ilze’s grandfather, a small farmer, was declared an Enemy of the State and sent to Siberia because he owned a small piece of land. Her Communist Party member father became a City Manager but he was killed in a car crash leaving her mother to bring up her and her brother alone.

At age three, Ilze’s parents risk everything by taking her to a forbidden beach a few miles from their home just so their young daughter can see the sea. This is the self-proclaimed “happiest country in the world” where party officials can queue jump and take the last pack of butter, where peace is paramount but shooting lessons are mandatory at school. As Ilze grows, she must keep quiet about all sorts of things or her mother will lose her job.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies

White Snake (Baishe: Yuanqi)

Directors – Amp Wong, Ji Zhao – 2019 – China – 99m

****

A young man falls in love with a demon resembling alternately a woman and a giant snake, in this Chinese animated feature – now available on Amazon Prime

Conceived as a prequel to China’s White Snake legend which has spawned numerous adaptations including Green Snake / Ching se (Tsui Hark, 1993), this computer animated Chinese epic concerns demon sisters Blanca and Verta (voiced by Zhang Zhe and Tang Xiaoxi) who look to all intents and purposes like beautiful women but are actually demon snakes in disguise – a white snake and a green snake as you might guess from their names. With her power and form enhanced by her sister’s gift of a green hairpin, Blanca leaves the demon world and visits ours for a showdown with a human General trying to prove his worth to the Emperor by dabbling in occult rituals involving snakes. When the showdown doesn’t go as planned, Blanca finds herself alone and suffering a complete loss of memory as to who (and indeed what) she is.

She awakes in a small, human, rural village where the local economy is built on catching snakes for the General.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies

The Old Man – The Movie (Vanamehe film)

Directors – Oskar Lehemaa, Mikk Mägi – 2019 – Estonia – 88m

***

From Fantasia Film Festival 2020 virtual edition and Annecy 2020 Online Animation Festival.

Estonia’s answer to Britain’s Shaun The Sheep, this feature spin off from long running, popular, puppet animation TV comedy series Vanamehe Multikas (Old Man Cartoon) shows Estonian sensibilities to be very different from those of the British. This is aimed at not as you might expect children but rather the young adult market – it’s stuffed full of sexual innuendo and toilet or other bodily function humour. Since I can imagine it being an uproarious experience with the right audience, it’s a shame to have seen this online rather than in a packed movie theatre owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bookended by black and white newsreel of Old Milker’s disastrous failure to stop a cow’s unmilked udders exploding into a lactopolypse complete with milk mushroom cloud, the plot has three kids sent to stay with their grandpa on his farm for the summer. Their family car back seat introduction shows us teenage boy Priidik and girl Aino constantly on their mobile phones while their pre-teen boy sibling Mart has built an incredible, fully functioning, miniature robot cow for grandpa.… Read the rest

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Animation Art Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Buñuel In The Labyrinth Of The Turtles

Director – Salvador Simo – 2018 – Netherlands – 80m

***1/2

Streaming on BFI Player (extended free trial offer here) from Thursday, July 16th – with more Buñuel movies here.

Following the success of his surrealist film L’Age D’Or / The Age Of Gold (1930), film director Luis Buñuel finds his main source of funding cut off when the strongly Catholic mother of his primary investor puts pressure in the latter. At the same time, a stranger named Eli Lotar strikes up a post-premiere conversation with the director saying he saw no influence of Dali in the film and presses a book Las Hurdes into Buñuel’s hands.

Frustrated at the lack of funding for his films, Luis decides to film the book which details the appalling living conditions of poor people in a remote village in rural Spain.

As part of my Annecy 2019 coverage, I review Buñuel In The Labyrinth Of The Turtles for DMovies.org.

Categories
Animation Art Movies Shorts

The Physics Of Sorrow (Physique De La Tristesse)

Director – Theodore Ushev – 2019 – Canada – 27m

*****

From the Annecy 2020 Online Animation Festival.

Available to watch on Amazon here.

Voice-over narration by Rossif Sutherland with the occasional line echoed by Donald Sutherland (or Xavier Dolan with Manuel Tadros in the French language version) accompanies extraordinary serial images. The verbals are adapted from the novel by Bulgarian writer Georgi Gospodinov and with echoes of reincarnation describe universal human and occasional other animal form experience of life. The opening minute or so (see the trailer) describes a person born in 1944 sheltering from English planes and bombing raids, a person born in the Bulgaria of 1968 who remembers the Prague Spring, a fruit fly who lives and dies in a day and the end of the dinosaurs.

This would probably be mesmerising were it just a radio broadcast or a sound file with the actors’ voices and sound effects, but Ushev accompanies his soundtrack with the most incredible images. Partly it’s the arresting content of the visuals he creates here and partly the technique used to realise them. A teenage boy falling in love with a circus acrobat girl who works days at a fairground shooting gallery.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies

Mosley

Director – Kirby Atkins – 2019 – China, New Zealand – 97m

*****

From the Annecy 2020 Online Animation Festival

Mosley (voiced by writer-director Kirby Atkins) is a thoriphant who lives on the small holdings farm of his owner Simon (Curt Cloniger) where he and Bera (Lucy Lawless) have a small boy Rue (voiced by director’s daughter Leah Atkins when little and Scarlett Sills in additional dialogue). The backbreaking work Mosley does for Simon is that of a plough horse. Simon is not a particularly bad man, but sees nothing wrong with pushing Mosley as far as he can with the result that Mosley is often completely exhausted by the end of the day.

He then has to contend with the hyperactive Rue leaping on him and demanding he come out and play. One evening, Rue wants dad to come and see his new hiding place and Bera insists it’s important. Rue talks about what he would do if he had hands, which takes Mosley back somewhat since thoriphants have hooved feet like horses or cows. A trip to Rue’s hideout reveals vast, underground cave paintings of thoriphants walking upright. And they have hands. There’s a long tunnel there too.

Mosley patiently explains that the uprights “are not real.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies

Nahuel And The Magic Book (Nahuel Y El Libro Mágico)

Director – Germán Acuña – 2019 – Chile, Brazil – 99m

****1/2

From the Annecy 2020 Online Animation Festival

Nahuel is afraid of the water. This is a problem since he lives in a coastal town and his single parent father – his mum died before he knew her – is a fisherman who’d like him to help him on the boat. Whatever his dad asks him to do, he can’t seem to get right. For example, he never gets to the boat in time. If sent to the market to buy eggs, they get broken on the way home. To make matters worse, a couple of local bullies pick on him too.

One day he’s exploring an abandoned house an discovers an old book of spells. The old, blind man who lives there and who possesses strange powers – including a walking stick that sports an eye – appears to be some sort of guardian for the tome. That doesn’t stop Nahuel sneaking out of the house with it. Soon, he’s being followed by crows in the service of a sorcerer who wants the book for his own evil purposes. And Nahuel has removed it from the protection of its guardian…

This is most effective as a horror movie, although there’s nothing in it I personally wouldn’t want an eight year old child to see.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Movies Shorts

The Fox And The Pigeon

Director – Michelle Chua – 2019 – Canada – 6m

*****

From the Annecy 2020 Online Animation Festival

This starts off opening a children’s book cover for a tale about, you’ve guessed it, a fox and a pigeon. In the time honoured tradition of such books, there are illustrations and words (in rhyming couplets) on the page. And like so many animated films, the characters move and come to life while the author acts as a narrator and reads the words.

What’s different about The Fox And The Pigeon is that while the characters want to live their own story – screenwriters often say that as they write they feel their characters talking to them and dictating the direction things should go – the narrator has other ideas and tries to impose his own narrative upon them. The fox finds a coin and buys an ice cream cone. Sitting on a park bench, he’s aware of the pigeon, who clearly wants to share the ice cream. But, intones the author reading his words, “why would a fox want to share with a pigeon?”

As the tale plays out, the author becomes increasingly vindictive, wanting the two characters to conflict with one another, to the point of one killing the other.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Zero Impunity

Directors – Nicolas Blies, Stéphane Hueber-Blies – 2019 – France, Luxembourg – 95m

*****

From the Annecy 2020 Online Animation Festival

Framed by live action sequences of serial expert, journalist and activist talking heads projected on the sides of urban buildings or rural landmarks, this skilfully uses minimal 2D animation to tell the stories of victims of sexual violence in contemporary war zones. It’s intended as part of a wider, ongoing media project designed to bring accountability to the perpetrators of such acts who at the present time face zero impunity.

Stories include, from Syria, the 11 year old daughter of an alleged terrorist who was imprisoned for 45 days towards the end of which she was unexpectedly injected with hormones before being raped by (at least) one man before passing out.

A Ukranian woman is held captive in a house and coerced into sleeping with her captor. In bed, she feels something cold and metal in her crotch. It’s a bullet. Much is made of her captor’s pistol. He puts it on a table in front of her, knowing she won’t take it because, if she were to shot him, where would she go?

The US doesn’t come off well. Dick Cheney and the Bush administration know the difference between right and wrong but facilitated sexual humiliation techniques on male prisoners held in prisons such as Abu Ghraib in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay at home.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Movies Shorts

The End

Director – Wiebe Bonnema – 2019 – Netherlands – 4m 36s

*****

From the Annecy 2020 Online Animation Festival

I had to blink while I was watching this. Its opening two minutes play out like the animated title sequence of a spaghetti Western, and if you’ve seen a few of those you’ll know that a number sport superb 2D animation titles which this little short so brilliantly pastiches. This goes further in a way, simultaneously playing with genre clichés while depicting a gunfighter saving a town from despots. As he passes through, white squares standing for people’s windows wipe onto the screen.

This opening cleverly gets around one of the inherent problems with the short animated (or for that matter non-animated) film, the necessity for credits. Usually, these are boringly placed at the end as white titles creeping up the screen over a black background. But having got all that out of the way in his opening, which incidentally functions as the perfect calling card for selling himself as a maker of amazing titles sequences, Wiebe has space to explore what happens after the generic story is over. What happens after the hero rides off into the sunset?

The graphic genius already exhibited continues in what follows: a long, slow, single shot horse ride away from camera into the distance.… Read the rest