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Animation Movies Shorts

Scenes With Beans (Babfilm)

Director – Ottó Foky – 1976 – Hungary – 12m

*****

A metal space bird approaches the bean planet to observe various aspects of life upon it before being discovered then shot at with a missile in this remarkable stop-frame short – out on MUBI as part of the animated shorts season Fables, Folklore, Futurism: Visionary Hungarian Animations on Monday, September 20th

Framed by a story of a giant alien metal bird observing a planet from space, this is primarily an excuse to create numerous scenarios using animated kidney beans and butter beans to stand in as people in a 3D, model animated world. It’s the sort of film where you constantly marvel at the inventiveness of shooting scenes in a particular style of animation which, were they shots in a live action documentary, would simply appear banal – but in the form here presented prove completely compelling.

A crescent moon resembling nothing so much as a croissant floats past the planet. The approaching giant bird looks like it could have wandered in from the Clangers stop-frame BBC TV series (Oliver Postgate, 1969-72, 1974) except that it’s less a character like that show’s fabled Soup Dragon than a tech-equipped space opera craft with a visual recording device that has a calibrated viewfinder like a camera or a periscope.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Live Action Movies

Ninjababy

Director – Ingvild Sve Flikke – 2021 – Norway – Cert. 15 tbc – 103m

*****

An artist draws constantly, her life punctuated with animated inserts, as she finds she is pregnant with a ninjababy – out in cinemas and on Curzon Home Cinema from Friday, September 10th

Rakel (Kristine Kujath Thorp) is the messy one, Ingrid (Tora Christine Dietrichson) is the tidy one. They share a flat. All this is apparent from Rakel’s simple, sketched black lines on white background, animated plan of their flat. That opens this essentially live action film, which is thereafter punctuated by animation either in similar inserts or apparently drawn into the moving live action images e.g. on light areas of wall (this may be a special effect, but it’s an extremely low tech one).

Ingrid thinks something is up with Rakel – the larger breasts, the vast quantities of fruit drink consumed – could Rakel be pregnant? Do a test. Positive. To the abortion clinic. Sorry, 26 weeks and the legal limit is 12. That’s Mos-Aikido (Nader Khademi) off the hook, the sex with him (and it was good) was more recent. The father can only be the self-centred Dick Jesus (Arthur Burning), her one sex partner who didn’t use a condom in that time period.… Read the rest

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Animation Movies Shorts

Drive (Pulsión)

Director – Pedro Casavecchia – 2019 – Argentina – 7m

*****

A series of disturbing vignettes brings to mind work by Lars Von Trier, the Brothers Quay, Alfred Hitchcock and David Lynch – now available to watch on YouTube (see below) from Wednesday, September 1st

This Argentinan short, although computer generated, has the feel of stop-motion. It brings to mind work by Lars Von Trier, the Brothers Quay, Alfred Hitchcock and David Lynch. A narrative conveyed by a series of disturbing vignettes (think: the opening minutes of Melancholia (Lars Von Trier, 2011) is put together with the same kind of fastidious technical attention to detail you find in the Quay Brothers’ films. A couple of scenes borrow directly from one of the murders in Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960), but in a clever way that shocks you much as those scenes in Psycho originally did. There’s a Lynchian feel about the whole thing – not just in the strange, quasi-industrial sounds recalling Eraserhead (David Lynch, 1977) or the weird lighting and heavily controlled mise-en-scène, but also in the overall feel of strange and terrible things happening within families and local communities, people adrift within the darkness of human existence.

One single viewing is not enough for this film which really only reveals itself on repeated viewings.… Read the rest

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Animation Art Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Escher: Journey Into Infinity (Escher: Het Oneindige Zoeken)

Director – Robin Lutz – 2018 – The Netherlands – Cert. PG – 81m

*****

The life and work of graphic artist M.C. Escher is explored through his own images and words (read by Stephen Fry) – out in cinemas on Friday, August 13th

Maurits Cornelius Escher’s words at the start of this film suggest a production doomed to fail: “I am afraid there is only one person in the world who could make a good film about my prints: me.” Sadly, since Escher passed away in 1972, we will never see that film. Happily, Robin Lutz has proved Escher wrong by making this one. And so too has his collaborator Stephen Fry whose voice-over for the English language version, recorded in under three hours at a London dubbing studio, is nothing short of inspired (of which more later). He must have done some serious preparation beforehand.

For the uninitiated, Escher (1898-1972) is the Dutch graphic artist whose prints famously include Ascending and Descending (March 1960), the impossible staircase which keeps going up and up, or down and down for people travelling in the opposite direction – as it goes round and round in a square. The concept was first developed by psychiatrist / mathematician Lionel Penrose and his mathematician son Roger Penrose, the latter credited as patron on the film.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies

Josee, The Tiger And The Fish (Joze to Tora to Sakanatachi)

Director – Kotaru Tamura – 2020 – Japan – Cert. PG – 99m

****1/2

A college student obsessed with fish and diving gets a job looking after a girl confined to a wheelchair – out in cinemas from Wednesday, August 11th

A disorienting opening for an anime. Bubbles. Underwater. Fish swimming. Frogmen. A male college student Tsuneo is working at a diving shop over the Summer. He dreams of going to Mexico, having plenty of time to dive and seeing the rare Clarion Angel fish.

Then, out walking late one night, the entire course of his life changes as a girl in an out-of-control wheelchair comes hurtling at him down a narrow street on a hill, flying out of the wheelchair and crashing into his arms in a frozen time special effect moment straight out of The Matrix (Larry and Andy Wachowski, 1999). Her horrified grandmother turns up seconds later asking the young man if he saved her.

The girl immediately accuses the boy of being a pervert who’s groping her, then that he’s following them (because his house is in the same direction they’re going). The grandmother invites him in for a meal with her grandaughter Kumiko who immediately objects to the name, preferring to be called Josee.… Read the rest

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Animation Documentary Features Live Action Movies Music

The Sparks Brothers

Director – Edgar Wright – 2021 – UK – Cert. 15 – 140m

****

The rollercoaster career of musical duo Sparks with its successful hits and intermittent lapses into obscurity – out in cinemas on Thursday, July 29th

There’s a story about John Lennon phoning Ringo Starr to say, “you won’t believe what’s on television – Marc Bolan doing a song with Adolf Hitler.” This was Sparks’ auspicious debut on BBC music show Top Of The Pops in the early 1970s playing what is probably their best known track, This Town Ain’t Big Enough For The Both Of Us, a broadcast estimated to have reached some 15 million people. Everyone was talking about this the day after – that’s mentioned here, and it’s something I myself remember from my own school days: the lively energetic singer (Russell Mael) and the suited, almost motionless, keyboard player (Ron Mael) with the slicked back hair and the Hitler moustache. The Hitler appearance may not have been deliberate, but that image of the duo – the extrovert and the introvert – has become the band’s enduring media image over the years.

TOTP 1974

One gets the impression from passing moments in this film that Charlie Chaplin was an equally formative presence for Ron – and though it’s never mentioned, Chaplin made the film The Great Dictator (1940) in which he played a Hitler type despot as well as a Jewish barber unfortunate enough to look like him…but I digress.… Read the rest

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Animation Documentary Features Live Action Movies

The Witches Of The Orient (Les Sorcières De L’Orient)

Director – Julien Faraut – 2021 – France, Japan – Cert. U – 100m

*****

A look through a prism of anime and archive footage at the Japanese women’s volleyball team that won the 1964 Olympics – out in cinemas and online in the UK and Ireland on Friday, July 16th

You don’t really expect a documentary about a women’s volleyball team to open with a scene from the anime short Danemon’s Monster Hunt At Shojiji (Yoshitaro Kataoka, 1935) in which the hero, trying to save the damsel in distress from the web of the evil spider witch, learns too late that the damsel is the evil spider witch and has lured him to his fate. Even if the team in question has become known as ‘the Witches of the Orient’. “To refer to people as witches is not very kind,” says Katsumi Matsumura, a surviving member of the team. “But then, witches have supernatural powers. So that suited us fine.”

The nickname originated in the Russian newspaper Pravda when the Japanese women’s team faced the Russians in the 1962 volleyball championships… [Read the rest]

Full review at All The Anime.

The Witches Of The Orient is out in cinemas and virtual cinemas in the UK and Ireland from Friday, July 16th 2021.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies

Lupin III The First

Director – Takashi Yamazaki – 2019 – Japan – Cert. 12a – 93m

****

Master thief Lupin III sets out to steal a diary protected by a lock with a fiendishly complex mechanism and becomes embroiled in an occult, Nazi plot to take over the world – out on BD, DVD and BD/DVD combi on Monday, September 20th

A character with a long history in Japan in anime, manga artist Monkey Punch’s celebrated gentleman thief Arsène Lupin III is a descendant of Frenchman Maurice LeBlanc‘s Arsène Lupin character. LeBlanc’s bona fide character recently featured in the French live action Netflix series Lupin (creator: George Kay, 2021). 

For this Japanese reboot, Lupin III and his fellow franchise characters are back on the big screen, now lovingly animated in state of the art 3D animation which has never looked quite like this. The nimble movements of Lupin as he typically evades the grasp of Interpol’s Inspector Zenigata by firing a climbing line at a ceiling, outwits an ingénue girl thief on Paris rooftops and finally has his stolen object taken off his hands by the shapely Fujiko Mine as she dangles from a helicopter rope ladder would look good in drawn animation – for similar antics look no further than earlier Lupin III outing The Castle Of Cagliostro (Hayao Miyazaki, 1980) – but they look considerably better rendered in full 3D CG here. … Read the rest

Categories
Animation Documentary Features Live Action Movies Music

WITCH We Intend To Cause Havoc

Director – Gio Arlotta – 2019 – Italy, Czech Republic – Cert. 12 – 98m – English Language

***1/2

Winsome if shallow documentary follows survivors from Zambia’s seventies music Zamrock phenomenon as they reform and tour Europe – in cinemas and on VoD from Friday, July 2nd

On the verge of a pan-African trip that will take the narrator through Zambia alongside bassist / vocalist Jacco Gardner and drummer Nic Mauskoviç, intensive research reveals the Zamrock phenomenon of the 1970s which mixed traditional African rhythms with psychedelic rock music of which the band WITCH was the leading proponent. The name later turned in to an acronym for We Intend To Cause Havoc at the suggestion of the band’s then graphic designer. Sadly, many of the original band members are now dead following the AIDS crisis which hit the African continent pretty hard.

At Zanis, the state-owned television company, we enter a 16mm archive that hasn’t been opened for 17 years because the room key had been lost. The music section reveals footage of James Brown performing in Africa but nothing of WITCH even though apparently they were all over broadcast TV at the time – much of what was taped of them may well have been recorded over by footage of President Kaunda on his latest walkabout.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies

Violet Evergarden The Movie (Gekijouban Violet Evergarden)

Director – Taichi Ishidate – 2020 – Japan – Cert. 12a – 139m

***1/2

Violet Evergarden struggles to come to terms with the loss of the man she loved in the war… then discovers that he may still be alive – in cinemas for six days from Thursday, July 1st

Being a companion piece / coda to a long-running anime series, it’s possible this may leave the newcomer feeling somewhat adrift, at least for the first reel or so. Young girl Daisy’s grandmother Ann has just died. We learn very little about Ann beyond the fact that she used to regularly receive letters from her own mother beyond her mother’s death.

This was accomplished by Auto Memory Dolls, not as you might suppose some sort of animate toys but rather girl employees of the CH Postal Service who wrote letters for people close to death for their loved ones to receive and read afterwards. That business is on the verge of disappearing as the new technology of the telephone takes hold, wiping out the market for the Dolls’ services.

One such Auto Memory Doll was Violet Evergarden who had previously worked in the war where she was weaponised by Major Gilbert.… Read the rest