Monday, 30 November 2009
Saturday, 28 November 2009
A young boy soars through the clouds revelling in the blueness and magic of it all. Below him two giant comedia-del-arte figures on stilts attract his attention and they take more than a passing interest in him. One strikes out as the boy flies too low but their attentions are soon elsewhere in a quarrel over a mysterious box. In the confusion it falls to earth, proving compulsive if unwise viewing for the young aviator. A second gondola in two days, this time an airborne one as the sheer exhilaration of animation as well as a youthful sense of wonder is communicated. Stilt Walkers, a 3D short from Alexis Van der Haeghe, is a graduation project from Belgium’s Haute Ecole Albert Jacquard in Namur. Seven months' work and an altogether classy contribution from Portuguese composer Pedro Camacho have created a dreamy landscape and fantasy action. The flying contraption is Jules Verne, action courtesy 3D Max. Why limit oneself to earth? A lover of Science Fiction throughout my life, I love these alternative worlds that resonate after the event, or when one wakes up.
Friday, 27 November 2009
Thursday, 26 November 2009
Jake Armstrong is a recent graduate of New York’s School of Visual Arts. His Flash animation The Terrible Thing of Alpha-9! has attracted a lot of favourable comment for a student film, notably in a June edition of Cartoon Brew. Flash is definitively 2D with a decidedly flat feel to it. Where the software works best, as here, is when it revels in a comic book flatness that suits its theme. Terrible Thing is a comic take on the science fiction genre as interstellar bounty hunter goes out in search of a killer alien. They don't see eye to eyes. As to story, I’ll let the viewer judge but words of Lennie Small (Of Mice and Men) come to mind in relation to the beast: "I done a bad thing. I done another bad thing." There is well structured plot fastening one to the drama with an engaging characterisation of the alien, bounding after the jettisoned gun, tipping the big gun over the cliff, clambering to the top of its cache of past playmates. Add to this bright, bold, artfully composed images together with an innovative presentation of credits.
Wednesday, 25 November 2009
Tuesday, 24 November 2009
Monday, 23 November 2009
Thanks to Michael Sporn I have been able to examine the list of films nominated for this year’s Academy Award in the Best Animated Short category. On the list is The Cat Piano, directed by Eddie White and Ari Gibson from The People’s Republic of Animation. They animate an atmospheric, narrative poem recounting the story of cats disappearing from a cat city. When the narrator’s girl is abducted he sets out to save her, a journey that takes him to a dark tower to confront the presence who steals cats for his giant cat piano, a device that stabs the trapped felines causing them to shriek in controlled unison. Remarkably I understand the piano (Katzenklavier) was a real invention by a German Jesuit , Athanasius Kircher, in the 17th century. Narrated with a singular sense of mystery by Nick Cave and possessing an essentially jazz soundtrack from Benjamin Speed, the film is heavily stylised with blue, red, purple colour scheme, steamy nightclubs, dark alleyways, characters bathed in shadow, focus thrown on faces with white eyes wide open – often in horror in a mix of comic book, film noir and Gothic. The rhymed couplets are delivered with relish in a theatrical, parodied form that doesn’t take itself too seriously though the classy artwork does. Visit the production website and blog for more information.
Sunday, 22 November 2009
Icarus And The Wise Men takes a well aired tale and squeezes wit and significance out. Icarus dared to challenge the Gods. Well, not exactly Gods here but wise fatheads who lie back amidst the tombstones and regurgitate fatuous sayings that prove man is unable to fly: “What Jupiter may the oxen may not.” They reckoned without Icarus’ determination. Time and again he launches himself from his cliff, plummeting to earth, buried by tombstone after tombstone, only to rise for more. When, lo and behold, he flies, the wise men decree that man cannot, nay, must not, fly. Generations of children have it drilled into them. Teacher says, "Jump" they chant, "How high?" They don’t all listen though. Guess from the screenshot below the bright spark who dares to challenge truth? Soyuzmultfilm’s Fyodor Khitruk wrote and directed the sparingly drawn piece. “The higher you rise the deeper you fall” says the third wise man. Peter Klassen has provided the sub-titles for a subtle piece of work I much enjoyed. A talented man, Fyodor, and I bet many readers of the blog will not have heard of him. In his nineties now, one of the greats of Soviet animation, Fyodor published The Profession of Animation in 2008 and has several great films to his name including an excellent Winnie the Pooh (1969). I have written about another of his films for later in the week.
Saturday, 21 November 2009
Friday, 20 November 2009
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Thursday, 19 November 2009
Wednesday, 18 November 2009
I know it's short but I promise you I have taught lessons like this and there's one absolute belly laugh in Alexei Alexeev's forest rehearsal as three of the woodland creatures do a gig. KJFG No5 is not one for the high volume control unless it's to tone it down. (My wife thought I was in distress.) When the hunter ventures onto the scene, of course, the music has to stop, though you can't keep a good wolf down. There are several more shorts featuring the trio and hunter if you follow the YouTube links.
Tuesday, 17 November 2009
Monday, 16 November 2009
Two trailers today, both of which I have seen in their full form on DVD. August is the work of Royal College of Art student Matthius Hoegg. During the hot, long days of August a group of young people set up camp in a rather well regulated campsite. Well it is until they arrive. The film presents two perspectives. One is that of the ants, following their routines, scavenging between the discarded beer cans that stand like ancient monoliths above their land; then a parallel world of humans, sunbathing, frolicking and drinking. Looking down from above, the designated camping areas look like insect cells. Slickly drawn and animated throughout, the foibles of our world are analysed in a manner I found fascinating; as if one is watching one of those quirky, fly-on-the-wall documentaries that through juxtaposition of material manages to say more about a community than any narrated commentary. Amusing and elucidating, this perspective works in a visual way too: giant cigarette butts or hairy legs seen at ankle height. And alongside, a mystery of the ants, building constructions the purpose for which is unknown to man. A classy, unusual piece of work altogether! Check it out at one of the various international festivals or buy the DVD.
The Skeleton Woman is a movie I have trailed before by that wonderful artist Sarah Van Den Boom. It was premiered at last week’s Leeds Festival and I have now had a chance to see the full movie. As one might imagine it is marvellously drawn thoughout. It tells the story of a young mother whose domestic drudgery and lack of contact with her husband awakens memories and fantasies of a past relationship set against a tragic Inuit legend of a drowned girl. In contrast to Mattias’ film we do have a narrator. The woman’s anguish is laid bare in words with a poetic quality to match the visual depiction. Once again the film is now doing the festival circuit. A haunting treat of a film, the trailer is here.