The package of Academy Award-nominated short films distributed by Magnolia Pictures, had a brief run in Atlanta and I managed to catch the program of animated films. Overall, an excellent program, though one film does stand out and would be my choice. Here are some first impressions:
Samuel Tourneux and Simon Vanesse’s Même les pigeons vont au paradis (Even Pigeons Go To Heaven) from France’s BUF Compagnie, is a quirky, computer animated tale of a priest who sells an old man a machine guaranteed to get him into heaven, despite his sinful past. The story unfolds in a craggy but predictable manner with considerable humor. (The film is available on YouTube here and here.)
Moya lyubov (My Love), a romantic drama from Russia’s Dag Film Studio, is Aleksandr Petrov fourth Academy-nominated film — the others are Korova (The Cow) (1989), Rusalka (The Mermaid) (1997), and the Oscar-winning IMAX film, The Old Man and the Sea (1999) , based on the Hemingway book. The Academy clearly adores his paint-on-glass technique, which evokes the look of French impressionist paintings. While the look is initially beguiling, in the end it pales in comparison with the marvelous later works of Frédéric Back, which used more traditional cel animation; the pictorial style of both filmmakers are basically conservative, to say the least, but Back’s films at his best has a real joie de vivre that Petrov’s seems to lack. (The film is posted on YouTube in three parts found here, here and here.)
Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski’s Madame Tutli-Putli from Canada’s National Film Board, uses digitally-enhanced stop motion to tell its moody, mock scary tale. The grotesque nature of the characters somewhat resembles those in Même les pigeons vont au paradis, but is played a bit more straightforward manner. While I don’t think it’s completely successful, it nevertheless has more than its share of moments.
Josh Raskin’s I Met The Walrus is a rather slight riff on a taped interview the 14-year-old Jerry Levitan did with John Lennon, which seemed to evoke an enthusiastic response from the audience. While not a great piece of filmmaking, the imagery does evoke the proper period feel. (It can be seen in Quicktime and Flash versions on the film’s official website here.)
Suzie Templeton and Hugh Welchman’s Peter & the Wolf, a brilliant, if rather old-fashioned puppet film that was co-produced by Britain’s BreakThru Films, Poland’s SE-MA-FOR Studios and Norway’s Storm Studios. It is a somewhat updated version of the Prokofiev musical tale, which is certainly superior to the 1946 Disney version featured in Make Mine Music. And best of all, the film’s cat (pictured above) is the most brilliant depiction of a pet in a film since the dog in Sylvain Chomet’s Les triplettes de Belleville. (The film can be seen, along with a making of documentary, on the BreakThru Films website.)
I must assume many of these films, along with a selection of their live-action counterparts, will appear later this year on a Magnolia DVD.
Speaking of Sylvain Chomet …
I recently rented a DVD of the anthology film Paris, je t’aime (Paris, I Love You) (2006). The film is one of those all-star affairs featuring brief vignettes by an assortment of internationally renowned directors, ranging from the Coen brothers to Gérard Depardieu, each dealing with a part of Paris. To my surprise and delight, it contains “Tour Eiffel,” a lively trifle from Sylvain Chomet, mixing live action and pixillation. relating the romance between two mimes. Like too many of these sorts of anthologies, the film tends to be uneven, but if you are fans of directors like the Coens and Chomet, it might be worth a peek.