Categories
Animation Art Movies Shorts

Opera

Director – Erick Oh – 2020 – South Korea – 9m

*****

Compelling, Oscar-nominated schematic of a self-contained society’s infrastructure behaviour and movement of groups of people within it over a day and a night – from the Annecy 2021 Animation Festival in the Short Films In Competition section – Official 4

This feels like it ought to exist as an art exhibit in a gallery playing over and over again. Watching it online, I went back and immediately rewatched bits of it until I’d seen the whole thing about five times. It’s like a massive moving painting where the camera starts at the top and slowly works its way down to the bottom before slowly panning up again. It makes me wonder if an installation version exists without the panning where visitor can just watch the whole thing on repeat until they’ve taken it all in.

It’s a picture of a self-contained society with the ruler at the top (and a deity above him/her), an elite, the workers at the bottom and several strata in between. In the space of nine minutes, we watch the sun come up and the society go through its daily ritual from morning to night then daily renewal in the morning.… Read the rest

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Animation Movies Shorts

Black Barbie

Director – Comfort Arthur – 2016 – Ghana – 3m 36s

*****

In the programme Today, African Animation – A Tribute To The African Continent from the Annecy 2021 Animation Festival hybrid and online editions

This is structured around a reading of a poem by a girl whose mother gives her a Black Barbie doll for her birthday. She hates it – “I want the white one”. Using a variety of 2D animation styles and the occasional bit of human pixilation, Arthur produces simple, arresting images of black girls alienated from the physical basics of their existence by a society that constantly tells them white skin colour is significant and black skin and curly hair is something to deny. The film maker lifts all this above the level of mere polemic by making her images, some of which are no more complex than animated child’s drawings, constantly arresting, doing both her cause and the medium in which she’s expressing it proud.

This film is not suitable for children.

Festivals

2021

Annecy Animation Festival special hybrid and online editions:

Monday, June 14th to Saturday, June 19th.

Festival Trailer:

2020

Annecy Animation Festival special online edition:

Monday, June 15th to Tuesday, June 30th.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Dance Movies Shorts

Boxballet (Boxbalet, БоксБалет)

Director – Anton Dyakov – 2020 – Russia – 15m 15s

*****

A pencil-thin ballerina becomes involved with a rough, stocky boxer. Some things seem destined not to be… And yet… – from the Annecy 2021 Animation Festival in the Short Films In Competition section – Official 1

Olya and Evgeny live near each other’s flats. When running to catch the subway train, tall, thin ballerina Olya’s movements are grace personified, the epitome of precision timing. The world of shorter, stocky boxer Evgeny, whose face is a patchwork of scars from his career in the ring, couldn’t be more different. Should she object to the hands of her choreographer on her leg when he’s showing her the position she needs to achieve? Is he being a little overly fresh? She’s unaware of Evgeny buying booze from the local shop and drinking it at home.

Then one day, he sees her in distress and rescues her cat from a tree. She invites him in for a cup of tea, but his embarrassment there causes him to know a cup off the table, breaking it. She takes him to an art gallery, a shooting gallery, roller skating. He retrieves her bag after she’s robbed in broad daylight.… Read the rest

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Animation Movies Shorts

A Mind Sang (A Mãe de Sangue)

Director – Vier Nev – 2019 – Portugal – 6m 11s

****

In the programme Annecy Awards 2020 – 8 Short Films #2 from the Annecy 2021 Animation Festival hybrid and online editions

This is not a film to watch once. It’s a film to watch over and over and over again. It comprises a series of hugely affecting double images, double meanings. Am I looking at an eye or a person swimming / drowning? A man descending from the sky of a hand pulling a pencil out of water? The profile of a face with eyes and nose of the full length figure of a man sleeping, his head on a pillow?

Double images like this have always worked well in static art or illustration (there’s a famous one of Sigmund Freud’s face which can be read equally easily as a naked woman) while animation – in this case, 2D animation, but it applies to other forms of the medium as well – has a long tradition of portraying transformation of one object or physical state into another. This clever and subtle little film combines the two legacies.

A woman’s hand drawing becomes a person sitting in a bathtub becomes a woman lying prone (in water?… Read the rest

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Animation Documentary Movies Music Shorts

Stationary Peaceful Protest

Directors – Xhosa Cole, Shiyi Li – 2021 – UK – cert. 15 tbc – 11m

*****

Sax player Xhosa Cole recounts a #blacklivesmatter rally in Birmingham while Shiyi Li provides incredible animated images – from Sheffield DocFest 2021

There doesn’t seem to be a lot of animation at Sheffield DocFest – maybe there is and I’ve yet to find it –  but there IS this terrific little short. The soundtrack is sax player Xhosa Cole’s monologue about driving to Birmingham for a Black Lives Matter rally which people of black, white and numerous other skin hues are attending. Beforehand, he debates whether to take his horn, and does so. At the rally, he runs into his old sax teacher and the pair improvise a duet, defusing a confrontation between a black woman and a black policewoman the details of which he never knows, showing great respect for both parties.

Set against the earnest voice-over are representational images of the narrative veering towards the abstract: Shiyi Li’s kinetic coloured shapes swirl around in a manner worthy of pioneering experimental animator Len Lye, who likewise often set his visuals against jazz music. Li’s imagery flirts with infographic iconography – for example, a walk on foot into the venue traverses a carpet which is also an arrow conveying a purpose, a sense of direction.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Documentary Live Action Movies Music Shorts

Blondie: Vivir En La Habana

Director – Rob Roth – 2021 – US – 18m

*****

Watch an incredible collision of cultures as new wave band Blondie tours Havana – from Sheffield DocFest 2021

Shot in several aspect ratios by multimedia artist and Blondie collaborator Roth (Doom Or Destiny music video, cert. 18, 2017; creative director on lead singer Debbie Harry’s memoir Face It, 2019), this is a vibrant, visual account of the band’s March 2019 tour of Havana. There are clips from songs recorded at several gigs here (with Harry sporting a variety of striking outfits) that make you wish you’d been there. For some songs, the band’s sound is augmented by Cuban musicians giving the likes of The Tide Is High a completely new lease of life.

Rather than going the obvious route and simply producing a film of the concerts – which I’m sure would be well-received by the band’s admirers, among whom I number myself – Roth has mashed the digitally produced concert footage up with Super 8 and 16mm footage of both Havana itself and members of the band.

He’s also had a lot of fun augmenting numerous live action shots with 2D animation drawn directly onto the moving images adding another layer to the already complex imagery.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Movies Shorts

The Very Hungry Caterpillar And Other Stories

Director – Andrew Goff – 1994 – UK – Cert. U – 35m

*****

VHS tape review from What’s On In London sometime back in the mid-1990s, republished here to coincide with the sad news of writer / illustrator Eric Carle’s death at 91.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Other Stories is based on the stories of German writer / illustrator Eric Carle and genuinely manages to make infant learning a fun experience. The title story, for instance, traverses days of the week, basic numeracy and simple sentence structure at the same time (“On Monday, he ate one apple, but he was still hungry. On Tuesday, he ate two pears…”) aided by a Roger McGough voice over that would stand up pretty well as a pre-recorded audio cassette in its own right.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

The film has further fun still with the animation medium. The caterpillar is cleverly reconceived as a series of joined-up flat shapes, while the cut-out animation techniques used prove not only the perfect vehicle for Carle’s material, but are imaginatively used which renders them watchable over and over again by adults and children alike.

Other Carle stories featured include The Very Quiet Cricket and I See A Song.… Read the rest

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Animation Movies Shorts

Feeling From Mountain And Water (Shan Shui Qing, 山水情)

Directors – Te Wei, Ma Kexuan, Yan San Chun – 1988 – China – Cert. N/C U – 20m

*****

Against a backdrop of mountains, rivers and the sea, a boy learns to play zither from an old master – available to rent online in the UK & Ireland as part of the Shanghai Animation Film Studio Retro in the Chinese Cinema Season 2021 from Friday, February 12th to Wednesday, May 12th

A bearded man carries a package through a mountainous, water-strewn landscape. A boy gives him a ride on his boat. When the man collapses after leaving the boat, the boy takes him to his house. The package turns out to be a zither. The man plays. The boy learns and is soon playing skilfully.

The plot here, such as it is, is really just an excuse to move the camera around incredible ink and watercolour landscapes and, in places, move objects such as the two main characters, the boy’s boat, fish in the river or water trickling down a mountainside in a style which fits with that. That’s an admirable aim and the film succeeds in spades. 

There are static marks on the screen which you know to be merely brush strokes, yet they convey, for example, an outcrop of rock visible in the snow or a small islet surrounded by water.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Movies Shorts

The Story Of Mr. Nanguo (Nan Guo Xian Shen, 南郭先生)

Directors – Qian Jiaxin, Wang Borong – 1981 – China – Cert. N/C U – 18m

*****

A man pretends to be a musician in order to profit from the high wages paid to the king’s court pipe players in the Qi period – available to rent online in the UK & Ireland as part of the Shanghai Animation Film Studio Retro in the Chinese Cinema Season 2021 from Friday, February 12th to Wednesday, May 12th

Two thousand years ago in the Qi period, the King of Qi is dissatisfied with the court entertainment and demands a grand ensemble of 300 pipe players. Invitations go out throughout the land and one finds its way to hustler Mr. Nanguo who dumps his current cockfighting venture to muscle in on the well paid musicians’ gig. 

At an audition, he impresses with impromptu juggling and claims he can play the pipe. Playing before the king, he is the one person unable to play the tune with the others. First he covers for himself by shooing away some cranes for making the wrong noise, then he stuff beans into his pipes so that no sound will come out when he plays. 

Alas, a bean dislodges and goes down the neck of the player in front.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Movies Shorts

Snow Kid (Xue Hai Zi, 雪孩子)

a.k.a. The Snow Child

Director – Lin Wenxiao – 1980 – China – Cert. N/C – 20m

***

A mother and her daughter build a snow child which comes to life and later saves the girl’s life – available to rent online in the UK & Ireland as part of the Shanghai Animation Film Studio Retro in the Chinese Cinema Season 2021 from Friday, February 12th to Wednesday, May 12th

Made a couple of years ahead of the perennial British Christmas TV animated favourite The Snowman (Jimmy T. Murakami, Dianne Jackson, 1982), this similarly has a story of a child making a snowman which then comes to life. A mother rabbit and her daughter live in a small house near the woods. The mother prepares food while her daughter plays with a rocking toy then suggests she and the child make a snowman, so they go outside and do exactly that.

After the mother has coaxed the child into using for the snowman’s eyes two precious longan seeds the child plans to plant next Spring, the girl tries to add a nose, but when her back is turned, the snow child pulls the carrot off and throws it on the ground.… Read the rest