Directors – Oskar Lehemaa, Mikk Mägi – 2019 – Estonia – Cert. 15 – 88m
A farmer and his grandchildren must recapture his unmilked cow before its udders burst into lactopalypse – stop-frame epic is out in UK cinemas on Friday, June 2nd and currently screening in previews
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 first 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
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 – screening in Scotland Loves Anime, Edinburgh on Monday, October 11th at 18.00 and Online (ten titles for only £4!!!) October 1st – November 1st
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
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.
Annecy Animation Festival special hybrid and online editions:
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
A young girl dresses as a man to survive in the Wild West in this extraordinary 2D, colour animated film – from the Annecy 2021 Animation Festival
Martha Jane Cannary is travelling across the US in a wagon, part of a larger convoy, with her father and her two younger siblings Lena and Elijah. Leading the train is Abraham, an austere and traditional man who isn’t good at taking criticism. Martha Jane has frequent arguments with his son Ethan. Her dad Robert is generally looked down upon, a situation scarcely helped by his wagon’s wheel coming off on a hillside road causing the convoy to grind to a halt or his attempt to lasso a horse to show that he is skilful which ends in his getting two broken ribs and a broken leg when the horse gets out of control.
With her dad unconscious in the back of their wagon, she is assigned Ethan as driver and manages to persuade him to let her try driving. She also borrows a pair of her dad’s jeans as she finds them much easier to get around in than the dress she’s supposed to wear.… Read the rest
Director – Germán Acuña – 2019 – Chile, Brazil – 99m
Opening Spotlight in the New York Intl Children’s FF 2021 on Saturday, March 6th at 7pm ET followed by a Q&A with the director. Previously in 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.… Read the rest
Autobiographical documentary employs cut-out animation to describe a childhood in Latvia when it was part of the Soviet Union – Glasgow 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
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
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