Friday, 31 August 2007

Vladimir Leschiov "Insomnia"

Vladimir Leschiov's "Insomnia" is an elegantly drawn animation recreating that awful zone we all experience at one time or another when sleep utterly eludes us. Here the restless would-be sleeper is disturbed by a feline visitor who demands that his dark circled owner feed her milk. Now whether or not the cat is an actual cat or insomnia personified is best left to the viewer's discretion. And this is the beauty of "Insomnia" because reality and dream are intermingled. The restless wanderer of the night peers out of the window at the huge moon before clambering to the front step to pick up the bucket to collect the milk to milk the cow to feed the cat. All this and a sleepy electronic soundtrack and often surreal images of night. There are some lovely sequences in which the dreamer or insomniac scales the buildings using a pick-axe, or the languid cat stretches out on the windowsill. And stangest of all is the Scotsman in his kilt clutching a pipe. As I said, it is elegantly drawn in pencil with usually greys but the merest hints of the subdued colours of the night. A warm, classy piece of work and a welcome introduction to this highly talented artist and animator. The animation seems to have won a clutch of awards since its first screening in 2004. YouTube has the video and a plea to purchase this and other work on DVD. There is an excellent and very candid biography in Vladimir's introduction to his newly opened Lunohod Animation Studio in Sweden which has short excerpts from his other work, all of which have that distinctive, stylish air about them. You can purchase full copies of the films from Vladimir via his website. Remember, YouTube is often but a pale shadow of the actual works reviewed here.

Thursday, 30 August 2007

Suzie Templeton "Dog"

Produced in 2001 when Suzie Templeton was a student at the Royal College of Art, "Dog" is an animated movie using puppets. It was her graduation film. The film is astonishingly mature in its depiction of how one copes with tragedy. A father and son are dealing with the recent and searing death of their wife and mother. Both are deeply traumatised though the father attempts to calm his son with soothing words. At the same time their elderly pet dog is suffering. This parallel moment in their lives and the pain it evinces, borne with few words but with agony etched on their faces, is almost too painful to view. I cannot recollect puppet design being any better than this. The father's lined and haunted look and the desperate boy with the shock of red hair are magically detailed, whilst the dog with its decaying teeth and fading eyes is similarly effective. The voices of Tony Fish, Josh O'Keefe and Bill Homewood are similarly exactly right whilst the set and lighting are extraordinary really. I have just ordered the DVD of Suzie's "Peter and the Wolf" and plan a short review of her earlier "Stanley". Meanwhile you can view "Dog" on Channel 4 .

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Hyung-Yun Chang "Wolf Daddy"

"Wolf Daddy" is a funny movie with genuinely laugh out loud moments together with a stream of witty, unexpected events. A white wolf has enjoyed the critical commendation he has received for his writing that "throws out the prejudice that wolves can't write" and is looking forward to the next great novel. Unfortunately he is disturbed by a visitor who appears to know him and offloads a perfect little girl of six, Young-hee, into his care. Though greatly surprised he invites the young girl into his house and turns out to be a dutiful "father", so much so that other waifs and strays are deposited at his door. But it is Young-hee who is his main charge. He is still a wolf of course with a wolf's appetite. I won't spoil one of the funniest moments in the movie but just ask yourself: what might a wolf have in the fridge for lunch? Hyung-Yun Chang's film lasts for over 9 minutes and never palls. The artwork is perfect and the narration calm and understated. Hyung-Yun Chang graduated in Animation at Korean Academy of Film Arts in, I think, 2003. "Wolf Daddy" won the Hiroshima Prize in 2006. Sadly I am unable to work out where to find the DVD though as usual there is a good version available on YouTube. It is also much featured at festivals.

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Isadore (Friz) Freleng "Rhapsody in Rivets"

I'm quite busy for the next day or so. Here is a treat from the past - Rhapsody in Rivets posted on YouTube. You might have seen the photographs of those brave men who worked on the skyscrapers in Manhattan in the early 20th Century. Well imagine they did it to music. The music is "Hungarian Rhapsody No.2" by a favourite, George Gershwin, the director Friz Freleng, the date 1941, the conductor is the site foreman and it is brilliant. It is one of the great Merrie Melodies cartoons. The animator should not be forgotten - Gil Turner.

Monday, 27 August 2007

Sejong Park "Birthday Boy"

Sejong Park's "Birthday Boy" is special enough to been nominated for an Oscar for Best Animated Short in 2005, losing out to Chris Landreth’s Ryan - see the Comments below. It is one of the most deserving of nominations for two reasons: first Sejong was a only student in Australia when he produced it; and second, because it is such a convincing film. It grips one's interest from first frame to last. It is 1951 in Korea, a time of war. The young boy, Manuk, is playing war games and scavenging for bolts and pieces of metalwork from what turns out to be a wrecked aircraft in a war torn and seemingly empty village. He carefully places a bolt on the railway lines which promptly rolls towards the points on the line. Is he going to cause a rail tragedy? Is his life in danger? The train rumbles by full of troops and tanks. This is a war zone with aircraft and gunfire. Manuk is oblivious to the dangers or implications. He pursues his own private play, firing imaginary guns, lobbing an imaginary hand-grenade, manufacturing another toy soldier to add to his collection. This is his birthday and a package awaits him on his doorstep. Sejong creates a world of childish innocence overlaid on a war where there are real casualties and issues the young boy does not comprehend. Produced using the Maya software Sejong's detail in his portrayal of the boy's facial and body movements is extraordinary. I must also commend the sound design from Megan Wedge, Chris McKeith and James Lee - Manuk's song, the train, jangling metal, gentle, unobtrusive music all add to the detail. Working alongside Andrew Gregory, the producer and script editor, Sejong has produced a movie that is 10 minutes of animation heaven. It has been screened everywhere. You can view it on YouTube though I downloaded a high definition copy from the unbeatable No Fat Clips. You may purchase a DVD here and/or visit the official site.

Sunday, 26 August 2007

Michael Lansdell “Leaving Nowhere”

Leaving Nowhere by Michael Lansdell is a tenderly told fable in which two children, a boy and girl, born into slavery and drudgery flee to the forbidden tower and find a kind of escape. The symbol or metaphor of the birds who enjoy a freedom the teenagers do not is placed before us at the outset and throughout the narrative this comparison is always present; even at the end. “Leaving Nowhere” is a lovely film with a distinctive sense of romance. I also greatly enjoyed Michael’s "The Boy With The Hole In His Head" featured elsewhere here and I’m glad he drew attention to other work showcased at At over 4 minutes “Leaving Nowhere” is the major work though I also liked the slighter “Moth Exodus” and there are other pieces too. Michael works in 2D monochrome and has a distinctive style with economically drawn figures and soft, artfully shaded backgrounds and detail. The composition of the string music by Richard Taylor (who also contributed some lovely guitar work for "Moth Exodus") suits the film perfectly with a repetitive melody that brings out the pathos and romance of the situation and is played with feeling by Ellie Buckland, Gemma Padley, Poppy Whitfield and Adam Backhouse. I really think Michael has a big future in the industry. He has talent as, by the way, does Richard.

Saturday, 25 August 2007

Meghana Bisineer "A Journey Across Grandmother" & "Moments of I don't know"

I have written recently about Meghana Bisineer's A Journey Across Grandmother. At that time I pointed to a copy uploaded to YouTube. I always give a health warning with YouTube. What you get there is not always the best quality and it is desirable to obtain a more legitimate, best version. This is the case with Meghana's work. Having now seen the original on DVD there is a world of difference. For a start the clarity is so much better, the line drawings standing out bold against the canvas. There is music in the YouTube version whilst the original has a rather more subtle sighs and breathing soundtrack by Andre Reivo. To date the only opportunity to view Meghana's intended version of her film is via the festival circuit; this also applies to her later work, "Moments of I don't know". The film is a study of a relationship, a dialogue of questions, brief responses, silences set atop an exquisite musical background of a solitary cello, courtesy Hannah Marshall. Drawn simply in pencil on paper, usually in black but with soft pastel shading to lend warmth, there is a tenderness about the film caught in such moments as the touch on the arm as the two gaze into space, or the girl blowing the early morning face of her partner and the stubble floating into the air like thistledown. The couple's voices are provided by James Doherty and Isabel Brook who lend a natural, convincing quality. I have Meghana's reel of work and will post updates as her commercial work becomes available. It's too late now but her two films have just been featured at the very popular London International Film Festival. Had I attended to my inbox I might have been able to attend! Her latest project is working on the "The Accident" directed by Sarah Nesteruk to be broadcast on Channel 4 shortly. I'll post details here as I have them.

Friday, 24 August 2007

“Rogue Farm” Mark Bender and Garry Marshall

“Rogue Farm” is set in the future on a farm in Scotland. However as we quickly discover this is no ordinary farm. The equipment the young couple have available is beyond the resources of most rural folk. Joe has the advantage of a sheepdog, Bob, who can speak and pilot a floating mat. Maddy, the young woman, operates a battery of surveillance gear and the sort of body suit armoury that would shame Robocop. “Put your arms and your tentacles where I can see them!”she orders as an intruder threatens the barn. The intruders are interesting aliens with rather warm voices and a sort of charm. News broadcasts tell of a plague of Rogue Pharms setting up camp. I can't begin to explain what these are though they are certainly not wanted on Joe and Maddy's farm: "Get off my land." Based on a short story by Charles Stross, the film was commissioned in February 2004 as part of Scottish Screen and SMG's New Found Land film scheme and made very quickly (5 months) by a team not all of whom were used to animation. 24 minutes is quite a length of time for an animation on a tight budget though the movie sustains our interest very well indeed. If more time and finances had been available perhaps the lip movements of the characters could profitably have been synchronised with the words spoken but I quickly became accustomed to the voice-overs and was anyway interested in the action, of which there is a lot. This is very science fictiony, an altered reality with all sorts of odd things occurring - talking dogs and the alien who seem to have different identities. There's also movement between past and present; some pretty cataclysmic conflict seems to have occurred prior to the action and both our farmers have pasts. The music score is most atmospheric, composed by Paul Leonard Morgan and played by Adam Strap. The film was produced using the games software Machinima Pro and it works terrifically well at times. Animators Matt Rochester and Han-Ter Park working under the leadership of Gary Marshall and Nic Harrison have managed to fashion some moody moments and all sorts of interesting perspectives and effects in a style somewhat akin to manga. Visually some of the scenes are stunning and the design is never less than first class. Directors Mark Bender and Gary Marshall have created a movie of which to be proud. To be honest, I wasn't aware of a great animation industry in Scotland, the home of my grandparents. Now to the point I'm actually most pleased by. I discovered the film on YouTube thanks to a recommendation but in fact you only get a six minute or so appetiser. Should you want more, simply pay $2.5 to Paypal, less than £1.50 my money, and you get the rest. I must confess the software on my computer managed to block the thing though my laptop downloaded straight away. Mark Bender could not however have been more helpful. He tells me he is appearing on BBC Scotland's Artswork Scotland on September 7th, and BBC2 at 10pm to talk about Scottish film-making; I shall set the recorder. The first six minutes then: Rogue Farm 1.

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Eduard Nazarov "There Once Was a Dog"

Today's movie is a ten minute treat. Based on a Ukrainan folk story, Eduard Nazarov tells the funny story of an old dog whose best years are in the past. His misadventures with his kindly, rural living owners culminate in him being kicked out into the wilds and having to fend for himself. This he most indisputably fails to do. His doomed attempt to climb a tree to catch a bird are so funny that his old adversary the wolf offers to help. After all, the wolf also is getting too long in the tooth - though in normal times this would be considered not such a bad thing for a wolf perhaps! Their plan to win back the admiration of the village community works well enough until, as in Potapych in Darren Price's tale, we discover that wolves and bears should not under any circumstances drink vodka. This is a superbly drawn 2D animation with particularly good representations of the rather idealised Ukranian people and quite delightful folk songs. Some of the scenes make one laugh aloud, such as the wolf, as he wishes to express his appreciation of his unwitting hosts' generosity, feeling the need to burst into song from his hiding place under the table. You can view "There Once Was a Dog" on one of my favourite DVDs, Masters of Russian Animation, Vol. 3 and it is terrific value. Not quite so cheap as the YouTube version however although the quality is nowhere near as good. Eduardo is one of those world class Russian animators whose work provides a lead for us all. His 1979 film Hunt, by the way, is also outstanding.

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Cédric Babouche "Imago"

"Imago" directed by Cédric Babouche is a sentimental, beautifully composed movie about how eight year old Antoine comes to terms with the death of his father in an air crash. In a wonderfully presented dream sequence he flies alongside his father, in ecstacy and terror as a storm gathers. Dream and reality are merged and the movie takes on an allegorical quality as the boy grows to manhood, child becomes grandfather. It is drawn in ink overlaid onto rather romantic watercolour backdrops of soft rose and olive tones. Some of the scenes are quite lovely with the woods, coastline cliffs and sky. There is also a marvellous sequence in which we are taken through the key moments in life. Add to this a touching final scene with old man and boy, and it is a treat bringing out the great softie in me. The music by Thierry Malet certainly complements the mix, buiding up the pathos, heightening the emotion; it's all professional stuff.
I can see a great similarity to Little Red Plane and, indeed, something of Father and Daughter in both style and substance. Graduating with his first degree in 1998 Cédric currently teaches animation at the école Émile Cohl. You perhaps can purchase the DVD here though in the meantime, surprise surprise, YouTube has had a copy posted.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Bill Plympton: Early Work

One of the foremost animators in the world, Bill Plympton was born in Oregon in 1946. He has been producing top animation work for 30 years. It was his classic animation "Your Face", the 1988 Academy Award nominee for Best Animation, that first brought him to my attention and his latest work is still as youthful and vibrant as it ever was. His work has a characteristic hard satirical edge to its humour. I wanted to discover how his earlier work prepared us (and him) for the movies that are more famous. Produced in 1977, "Lucas, the Ear of Corn" is the earliest of his works I have seen. Briefly it tells the tale of a mother and her son who just happen to be ears of corn. In their exchange of dialogue as the youngster poses questions of his parent we are told about the meaning of life. I have read that this is a "children's story" and that it is "charming". I'm not so sure. There is a charm I suppose but quickly we remember the fate of ears of corn on the grocer's shelf and inevitable kitchen and one or two of the mother's responses, albeit from an ear of corn, are a trifle uncomfortable. It's very conspicuously early work with basic animation though there is an undoubted attraction in the simple, almost child-like drawing. Boom Town, from 1985, is a different matter in that my admiration for it is unalloyed. With a stirring soundtrack from the Android Sisters, Ruth Maleczech and Valeria Vasilevski, composed by Timothy Clarke, Bill's caustic wit is trained on the American military whose war effort seems primarily designed to create profits for American industry. Strangely topical maybe. The script by Jules Feiffer is excellent but it is the constant surprise of the visual gags with war machines and money and heads sprouting from the earth that most captures the heart, whilst there is the almost ever presence of the dancing Android sisters set against various backdrops. His Drawing Lesson #2 of 1988 is spectacular in its technique as the unseen artist tells the tale of his lost love (and model), a tale sketched for us on canvas and filmed. The high-pitched, manic and winging voice of the narrator, Chris Hoffman, is perfect for the part. The drawings are caricatures and skilfully drawn. But I like Boom Town best. All three have been posted on YouTube: "Lucas, the Ear of Corn", Boom Town and Drawing Lesson #2. However I would warmly commend Plymptoons: The Complete Works of Bill Plympton [1985] or the direct merchandising section of his site.

Monday, 20 August 2007

"En Tus Brazos" François-Xavier Goby, Edouard Jouret & Matthieu Landour

Three French students - François-Xavier Goby, Edouard Jouret & Matthieu Landour - created the stirring "En Tus Brazos" in 2005. It is a work of art and speaking as someone who has belatedly been dragged, kicking and screaming, to learn the Tango (amongst other dances) it seems pretty authentic to me. It is about a seemingly crippled Argentine star of the Tango world in the 1920s. He sits in his wheelchair and reminisces about those glorious days of adulation, news headlines, sparkling venues and, not to be forgotten, his beautiful dance partner. And it is thanks to her that he is pulled to his feet and revived through the power of dance. As I said, this is a stirring movie, in shades of sepia and grey with just a smidgeon of red for his partner's dress and headband. In gloriously synchronised action to the music the pair strut their stuff - the tango is a most romantic dance. The artwork is stylish in an art deco way, full of period detail such as the gramophone and the concert room dancefloor. The figures are beautifully modelled in 3D, with exquisite detail in their hands, or the rather snazzy moustache that our hero twists in a rogueish way to signify his recovering spirits. I must mention the soundtrack because it is integral to the action: music for En Tus Brazos itself by Carlos Zárate, lyrics by Elizardo Martínez Vilas (Marvil) and for the second piece, El Huracán - music by Edgardo Donato and Osvaldo Donato with lyrics by Manuel "Nolo" López. The link is to the creators' website and there are available stills as well as a list of their stack of awards and festival screenings. As well as the full movie!

Sunday, 19 August 2007

Tom Robinson "Paradise Lost"& Co-operative Young Film-Makers

I returned from my holiday to a full mailbox and the news that one of my students, Tom Robinson, has had his animation Paradise Lost chosen for screening at the Co-operative Young Film-Makers Festival at the National Media Museum, Bradford, on Friday 12th October at 12.00 noon. This is an excellent piece of work about just what mankind's presence on the planet has wrought. It is imaginative, technically proficient with experimental use of quick fire animation in photography, allied to Tom's own talented drawings and just about the best animated dinosaurs you're likely to see (in Flash animation anyway.) This is a super movie, well deserving of accolades and Tom's a great student to teach. It is also a big screen movie if I have ever seen one. So if he reads this before I obtain his email he should contact me for details. In the meantime I've been sent quite a bit to view including some outstanding work from the hugely talented Meghana Bisineer. I plan a study of Bill Plympton's earler animation work and Rogue Farm, a Scottish animation that shows how the animator can use YouTube to advantage - I'm quite keen to explore this!

Friday, 10 August 2007

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Pjotr Sapegin "One Day a Man Bought a House"

Available from the excellent MilkandCookies site is Pjotr Sapegin's "One Day a Man Bought a House" that I must confess I had my doubts abour prior to viewing. Any person with a rat in the house is hardly likely to fall in love with the thing. But this is exactly what occurs in Pjotr's 1998 movie about a bachelor who purchases a house only to discover that he has an univited tenant. Despite several attempts to rid himself of the over-sized beast an impossible relationship develops. It features a tongue-in-cheek narration (and fabulous voice of Odd Børretzen) in which the implausiblity of the situation is accepted as one of those things that happens in our world. The movie will not change my view of rats though this has a lesson to teach us about true love. It is produced using 35mm film and claymation and, as an ex-set designer for the Bolshoi Ballet, you would expect effective set design for the house and cellars in which the action takes place. Working for his own Norwegian company, Studio Magica, the Moscow born director has produced a string of humorous and idiosyncratic animated movies and he is an occasional judge in festivals all over the world. You can purchase the movie in a compilation I have recommended before, Spike and Mike's Cutting Edge Classics. Plenty of time to enjoy it whilst I am on my holiday.

Monday, 6 August 2007

Jakub Pistecky "Maly Milos"

The 1999 movie "Maly Milos" was Jakub Pistecky's graduation film for the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in Vancouver, although his birthplace is the Czech Republic. It is a short, 3 minute movie about a little man suffering the tyranny of his huge wife, Babka. Milosh is late for dinner because he has the temerity to chat to his friend, the family goat. Both suffer from Babka's tongue lashing but things rapidly get out of hand when the goat eats Babka's coat. That's it - the tyranny escalates from tongue to actual lashing. When Babka determines on making the punishment even more severe the worm turns; Milosh, the downtrodden husband, finds a way out of the situation. Violin, accordian and drums evoke something of Eastern Europe and another key feature is the gentle narration by Alex Williams, and the verse: "She persuaded Little Milosh to come inside and see/a special something she had for him, a little something on her knee." Remember, Babka is not a nice lady! The computer generated animation is, to an extent, 3D though the backgrounds are flat, and the colours soft and muted. Jakub has obviously found work in special effects in the movie industry - and I noted his name on the animation credits for "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" as well as "Pirates of the Caribbean". You can see the animation on a lovely 2004 animation compilation, Spike and Mike's Cutting Edge Classics , which has other movies I intend to feature on the blog. If you can't afford the $17.99 you can see an admittedly not quite top notch copy courtesy of the indefatigable YouTube.

Sunday, 5 August 2007

Wendy Tilby & Amanda Forbis "When the Day Breaks"

Wendy Tilby and Amanda Forbis created a strangely disturbing movie, albeit with comic touches, in their 1999 Oscar nominated "When the Day Breaks". Produced for the National Film Board of Canada it tells the tale of two individuals who set about their normal, everyday lives, briefly and unwittingly meet, only to have their lives broken by a terrible event. To say that the people are in fact animals suggests a diminution of the emotional impact though this is not the case. Such is the attention to detail and an absorption with everyday objects and actions that the characters quickly appear and are accepted as human. The techniques used to create such effective animation are worth considering here. Wendy filmed Amanda wearing masks. The results were transfered to video tape, frames selected and added to painstakingly by hand, and then filmed again. The effect is of juddering, flickering film with fuzzy images and a foggy background, all in shades of grey with just a hint of ochre, say, for cheese or a lemon; or the merest hint of pink for Ruby's nose - she is afterall a pig. The scenes are beautifully realised, whether it be Ruby pouring milk into her coffee before raising the blind to let in the sun, or the traffic accident and the aftermath of confusion and pandemonium. We zoom into incidental images the significance of which we feel we know but would find it difficult to articulate: the kettle plugged into the socket, the figure of the driver of the night train. One beautiful sequence of images has a man (or goat, not that it matters) shaving, he washes his razor in the tap, we follow the water on its journey through a myriad of pipes before it emerges underneath the very broken grate we observed earlier during the road accident and from thence to the apartment of the pedestrian involved in that same incident. Thus is a theme of the animation revealed, that we are all connected and affected by the tragedies of life as well as the ordinariness of day-to-day living itself. In fact it is through these mundane acts that we can survive trauma. The two women worked for four years on this project and it shows. You can purchase the DVD in compilation form here alongside other movies from the Toronto International Film Festival. Google Video has more than one copy posted though with such a faultless movie as this I very much prefer the best quality version on DVD. Finally, and it's an oversight to leave it so late in the article, I must applaud the music in the style of the 1930s or '40s written by Judith Gruber-Stitzer with lyrics by Wendy and Amanda. The two songs are sensational in that they fit the movie so wonderfully well.

Saturday, 4 August 2007

An Vrombaut "Little Wolf"

An Vrombaut's "Little Wolf" was her graduation piece from London's Royal College of Art in 1992; she had already obtained a degree at Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Gent (Belgium). It is a remarkable animation and signals her present career in children's animation and publishing. Indeed in her school visits around the UK she demonstrates her techniques using this animation and her equally successful 'When I grow up I want to be a tiger'. However it is "Little Wolf" that is the subject of this post and what a delight it is. The backdrop to the movie is a romantic, moonlit rural scene with four adult wolves and one little wolf chasing a remarkably nimble and clever sheep. The sheep leads them a merry dance so when the moon comes out the five exhausted creatures howl away. This is a heavenly moment as, one after another, they howl into the moonlight. Little Wolf is a little too taken up by the howling and becomes rather attracted to the moon. The remainder of the movie is given over to the four adults attempting to rescue their tiny cub from his precarious position hanging in the sky. The sheep, of course, does his or her best to help. The colours of the movie are enchanting, with the yellows of the moon, stars and wolves set against a dark sky and landscape. Then there is the sheer joy of the movement as the wolves chase the sheep, pile upon each other like acrobats, or bounce on a trampoline to rescue Little Wolf. Then there is the warm humour of it all. Moments make you laugh aloud. Gorgeous stuff. If you are would like to read about the 3000 drawings that were required to complete the animation click the link. Should you wish to purchase the DVD you can obtain it from the BFI here in a compilation of various films for young children. If you are interested in An's many marvellous books for children they are available from Amazon. You might also have caught her ’64 Zoo Lane’ on BBC's Cbeebies. As ever, YouTube has a voracious appetite for movies as good as "Little Wolf"!

Friday, 3 August 2007

Michaela Pavlátová "Repeat"

Michaela Pavlátová has achieved festival success way beyond her native Czech Republic. It was a delight to discover her excellent 1995 "Repeat" is available on the web to view. "Repeat" is shown at viddler. This is one of the classic animations of the 1990s with its surreal tale of the struggle between the sexes. All the strains as well as the closeness of relationships are shown, the title referring to the repetition of the tensions throughout our lives. It also reveals the role the woman plays in a marriage and the need, though often not communicated properly, of the man for this companionship and support. I can't say the man comes out well in this philosophical study. Michaela's drawing ability is supreme and her figures, stylish soft pencil or pastel portaits, are works of art in themselves. She also adds colour in sumptious oranges or blues as appropriate. This is art of the most supreme quality as well as a sharp and original mind. Her earlier and much shorter (3 minutes) "Etuda Z Alba" explores something of the same theme with a communication breakdown between husband and wife solved in an age-old manner by the woman. And you do not need to speak Czech to understand the movie. It is posted on YouTube. However as ever with these sites there is a health warning. It's better to see the full quality in DVD form, so visit where there are links to work dated as far back as 1991. This is her Oscar nominated "Words, words, words". I have tried and failed to recommend an easily available DVD of her work.

Thursday, 2 August 2007

Meghana Bisineer "A Journey Across Grandmother"

I have been keen to see Meghana Bisineer's five minute animation A Journey Across Grandmother for some time. It has featured in some of the international festivals but I have been unable to locate a copy. Meghana originally created her movie in 2005 and graduated from the Royal College of Art here in the UK in 2006. Perhaps it was the enigmatic title and a guess about the content that attracted me. My guess proved correct and this wonderful movie is a touching treatment of a young girl's relationship with her ailing grandmother. Beautifully drawn by hand in ink it has a confident, sparse quality about it. The bed is a landscape with single lines for the horizon, the girl a simple figure in a sense like a child's drawing, the grandmother all rounded as she lies amidst the bedding. Then there are the sad moments: the sympathetic smile and touch of the old lady, the huge and empty bed. I also like the apt images - the boat, the extended hand, the tiny child standing by the huge telephone. It is better than I could have hoped. The inevitable copy on YouTube is sufficiently good quality to enjoy but follow the first link and you will discover a much better copy on her revamped website. Another place to visit might be the website of Ian Mackinnon, who obtained a credit in the movie and whose co-production with Meghana for E4 is a short commercial, "Grid", that is rather modern and a complete contrast to the 2005 work. I will report on Ian's work soon.

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Ann Xiao "Waking Up Inside the Fish"

Ann Xiao's marine life wonder "Waking Up Inside the Fish" was commissioned by Mesh, Channel 4 in 2006 and reminds me of one of those rather snazzy tropical fish tanks used as screensavers. The difference is that there is a story here. Inside the fish are lots of tiny women with what I take for gills and webbed backs. They seem to have a relaxed life amidst all that colour and blue sea. Of course when one glimpses another life, another only marginally larger girl emerging from her boat in diving gear, the temptation to change lifestyle becomes too great for one particular girl-fish. The 3 minute movie was written and directed by Ann and animated by Richard Ellison, Mari Umemura and Montakarn Kawkome. I found this an absorbing and fascinating movie that made me think as well as admire the work. The multi-coloured reef may be beautiful but it also has dangers. The script has an allegorical power. Anne graduated from the University of Arts London, although she completed her initial studies in Beijing. She has a very full biography on her website and seems, not surprisingly given her talent, to have plenty of commissions. You can download her animations from her website - I particularly enjoyed her "Letter from Somewhere" commissioned by the Korean musician Jin by Jin, a 2D/3D collaboration with Gabriel J Garcia. This has moments in it reminiscent of that new and entrancing commercial for Ford's Mondeo with the old cars floating into the sky on balloons as their owners realise the beauty of the Ford motor; it also has a link at the end to "Waking Up Inside the Fish". Do visit Ann's site at: She is, I promise, a future star. Her work is a nice place to begin after my short vacation.