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Art Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Eric Ravilious: Drawn To War

Director – Margy Kinmonth – 2022 – UK – Cert. PG – 87m

***1/2

The career of the British watercolour artist tragically killed while serving as an official war artist in World War Two – out in cinemas on Friday, July 1st

The first official war artist to be commissioned in World War Two, Eric Ravilious was on an aircraft which set out from Iceland in 1942 and never came back. There is no exact record of what took place, covered by the phrase “missing in action”, but in all likelihood the plane went down in the sea. Kinmonth finds simple images to convey the incident, which appears in both her opening introduction to Ravilious’ life and her closing reel representing his passing – a warplane descending, our viewpoint falling towards the surface of the sea, an indistinct body moving in water filled with bubbles. At the end, the cold blue of the water contrasts with the gentler, rural green of the family house and surroundings back home.

After his death, Ravilious’ art was largely ignored. Alan Bennett, an admirer of the artist’s work, puts this down to the work’s cheerful and unthreatening nature and a prevailing view that art should grapple with dark and foreboding subject matter.… 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

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Animation Art Movies Shorts

The Cowboy’s Flute (Mu Di, 牧笛)

Directors – Qian Jiajun, Te Wei – 1963 – China – Cert. N/C U – 20m

*****

A flute-playing forest boy loses then is reunited with his beloved water buffalo in the mountains. 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

This opens with a lengthy panning shot of a forest drawn with pen and ink in a distinctive Chinese style not entirely dissimilar to the animated opening of the Japanese live action feature The Mad Fox (Tomu Uchida, 1962) but without the chaos or violence. Among the ink and watercolour-rendered trees wanders a boy playing a flute as he rides a slow moving buffalo, rendered like the backgrounds in pen and ink so that the effect is not of watching clumsily moving images over exquisitely rendered backgrounds, as has often been the case in Western animation departing from the 2D Disney model, but rather of watching a seamlessly moving brush and ink painting. Te Wei had already done this with his groundbreaking Where is Mama? (1960) and he pulls off the same trick again here.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Art Movies Shorts

Where is Mama? (Xiao Ke Dou Zhao Ma Ma, 小蝌蚪找妈妈)

Director – Te Wei – 1960 – China – Cert. N/C U – 15m

*****

The watercolour paintings of Qi Baishi are brought to life as a group of newly-born tadpoles search for their mother – available to rent online from Friday, February 12th to Wednesday, May 12th in the UK & Ireland as part of the Shanghai Animation Film Studio Retro in the Chinese Cinema Season 2021

This has a fairly simple plot which small children might enjoy as much as adults. A frog births some tadpoles, but while it is away they hatch and go around searching for her, not knowing what she looks like. Each creature they encounter – two chicks, two crayfish, three goldfish, a crab, a turtle and, finally, a catfish – gives them a slightly more accurate description than the one before. Eventually – spoiler alert! – they find mama. “But we don’t look like you!”

On some level it works as a children’s story which you can imagine being turned into a picture book for the very young. (There’s a long tradition of animated shorts which fit this bill, some of them are even adapted from already existing children’s picture books.) But that’s not really the film’s strength. Nor is it the Chinese actress’ voice-over which seems to be squarely aimed at little kids.… Read the rest