Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Julie Duverneuil and Nicolas Perraguin "Au Poil!" (ESMA 2011)

Rank revolution is in the air and it comes from that staunch home of revolution and riot: France. This time though the peasants are truly revolting. Yes, truly, the proletariat reek of unmentionable things. Humans are messy beasts in the washroom. If you scrutinise the screenprint we are talking toilet humour here. From the magic Toulouse home of animation, ESMA, Julie Duverneuil and Nicolas Perraguin have come up with a cracker in  Au Poil! (English sub-titled version) You see, in the bathroom everyone is not equal. There are the glamour jobs and there are the dirty jobs. Julie and Nicolas's citizens of revolutionary fervour is the spokeswoman herself, the toilet brush. Answering her call to arms are the cotton buds, disposable razors and a horde of orc-like bacteria. Lined up against them in a somewhat unequal contest is the ancien regime of lipstick, perfume spray and chic toothbrush. Chic brush has little chance against rabble rouser shit brush, pardon my French.  This is a vivacious, fun film with a frenzy of activity and a frankly viable alternative to the guillotine for the vanquished. If you want to catch the serried ranks of cotton buds singing L'internationnale, this is the Leap Day film for you. Goodness, Au Poil! could become viral.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Avner Geller & Stevie Lewis "Defective Detective” (2011)

Defective Detective is a product of Ringling College of Art and Design that makes the grade. I view a lot of CG movies and, frankly, have to separate wheat from a lot of chaff.   Top students, Avner Geller and Stevie Lewis, offer traditional comic romp much in the style of a Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies. A would-be detective searches for a murderer of a little old lady who herself has murderous intent. A kitchen can be a dangerous place for a bungling sleuth. The pair have won many awards, not the least being a Student Academy Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts. Nice to see the traditional cartoon style flourishing, helped in no small way by Avner and Stevie being such natural artists as a click on their names above will quickly support. One can tweak Photoshop from here to eternity but genuine artists will out! Anyway, the plot is conventional enough but funny, based, as all farces, on misunderstandings. The shorts I feature here may move one emotionally or scrutinise its subject, Defective Detective is well crafted, traditional slapstick.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Izabela Plucinska "7 More Minutes" (2008)

7 More Minutes is offered as a master class in plasticine animation. It is also a thoughtful metaphor on life's great mystery. Four seeming strangers are together in a train compartment when it lurches to a violent stop. They meet again under a hot sun at the beach. Slowly, almost  casually, they are drawn to the sea. But first, they have to discard their clothes that float, garment by garment, into the heavens. This is a gorgeously crafted film, detailed and observational. Something of the strange beauty can be seen in the screenshot, the assorted body shapes, textured lovingly, the sea and sky, suffused with yellow. Seagulls pass overhead, there are the sounds of the sea and almost incidentally there is the distant sound of a railway station. Don't expect drama, or wham bash excitement but your intellect and aesthetic senses will be stirred. Izabela Plucinska is the most remarkable animator. Look at the gentle humour of the feet and toes curling on the sand, or the innovative way she depicts the tide coming in, or the ripples of fat overwhelming the buttocks. Marcin Oles contributes suitably avant-garde music. A gem, I promise you. And such an apposite title.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Eugene Fedorenko & Rose Newlove "Village of Idiots " (1999)

Village of Idiots is based on an old Jewish folk tale. Shmendrik lives with his wife and two children in the village of Chelm. He is a self proclaimed, practical man though his attempts to plug the gap in his leaky roof with the sole leather from his shoes is nearly the end of him, family and home. So he leaves for Warsaw. Tired after a long trek he sleeps but has the common sense to place one shoe in the direction from which he has come and one in the direction he is going. Simple  really and he is. When he awakes he carries on his way before arriving at a village remarkably like the one from which he had set off, together with a family abandoned by the father and looking remarkably .... Yes you've probably seen it already. The two Canadian animators, Eugene Fedorenko and Rose Newlove, are confident in their art. Nicholas Rice narrates with a warm, rich voice that communicates the vast certainties of  Shmendrik together with an irony utterly alien to a hero who dispenses wisdom liberally: "I, Shmendrik, have learned that wherever you go is just like staying in the same place." The many times award winning Normand Roger (six Academy Awards, thirteen nominations) provides a score of whimsy, the milieu and sense of wonder utterly convincing. The two directors employ one of most delightful uses of multi-layered, paper cut-outs I have seen. Eugene won the Academy Award in 1979 for his Every Child. Gentle humour and a marvellous film that should be required viewing for the many students of animation I know frequent the blog.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Leszek Plichta "Dreammaker" (2007)

Dreammaker is a major film from the celebrated German Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg made over four years essentially by one man, Leszek Plichta, as his Diploma project. For a gold coin the Dreammaker will concoct a dream, enclosed in a translucent blue globe and capable of transforming the meanest existence. But the old man is mean and bitter. The girl breaks her dreams, not that they were what she asked for, and has to work hard tending for her master before her own dream is granted. And what of his dream? This is a fairy tale for adults. Be warned, I jumped out of my seat, shocked by one particular early sequence. The setting is a combination of Heath Robinson and Dr Frankenstein, lightning and thunderbolts, but there is also a softer side of blossom trees and butterfly. Indeed Leszeck is a sentimental thing, his girl having lovely, large eyes, often to be seen brimming over with tears. And is the old fellow more than a curmudgeon? At more than thirteen minutes this is something of the epic animated short but interest and wonder is sustained throughout. Of course, the director received help: Tom Zahner's English voice for the main character, David Christiansen's professional orchestral music equisitely played by the Deutsches Filmorchester Babelsberg, and the screenplay from Dominik Steffan. But the body of work remains Leszec's, an entirely impressive achievement and a fascinating film.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Kevin Dart & Stéphane Coëdel "A Year of Sun with Mr Persol" (2011)

So here's a movie that describes my year. A tad on the dour side I'll grant you but a frisson of the high octane glamour, sun, sea and suggestion are contained in A Year of Sun with Mr Persol, sixty seconds of blissful joie de vivre, with Dave Newby's upbeat music and sunglasses exclusive enough to satisfy even that king of cool, Steve McQueen. The piece is made for Italian eyewear brand Persol Eyewear, directed by Kevin Dart and Stéphane Coëdel for the London office of Passion Pictures, with the agency Winkcreative. It has everything the happy bachelor could ever wish for - yachts, planes, cocktails, girls aplenty, red wine, fast cars, tennis, and sun sun sun. And I forgot the dog. To look good in this wonderworld you need the shades. The usually excellent Amid Amidi from Cartoon Brew suggested the piece might be an example of "over-art directing a piece of animation to the point where the message becomes buried within the polish of the artwork". Given that we are talking aspirational, life-style,designer, expensive ... I'm inclined to think Amid's comment more généralité than actualité. The film is bright, seductive. I got the message without any trouble seeing through the polish. In short, the video fits the brand perfectly. Persol has ninety years of selling the dream and keeping the sun out. Amid did go on to talk about the sophisticated design work et al. I'll add 1960's period, retro look, dazzling light and pace. No damp praise for a hot piece.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

"Little Tombstone" Frédéric Azais, Théo Di Malta, Benjamin Leymonerie & Adrien Quillet (ESMA 2011)

Sergio Leone's classic 1966 movie The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is given animated, pastiche treatment in Little Tombstone from that growing powerhouse of French animation, ESMA. Frédéric Azais, Théo Di Malta, Benjamin Leymonerie and Adrien Quillet are the talented quartet though I have to acknowledge the excellent music of Alexandre Scuri and his musicians who add so much to the atmosphere. Should the plot be unknown to you then it concerns the meeting between bounty hunters and quarry somewhere in a ghost town that was originally filmed in the bleak high plateaus of Spain. Now that film was a comedy full of long silences, nervous tics, sweat, undertakers taking measurements and the animation follows the same path, together with an added twist for variety's sake. There is true craftsmanship here particularly in the close-ups where the detail and texture of veins, wrinkles, leather, wood are simply exquisite. Add some playful flourishes of cinematic monochrome and comic book characterisation then here's the best movie I've written about since I returned from the dead.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Johnny Kelly "Back to the Start" (2011)

 I've featured Royal College of Art graduate, Johnny Kelly - from one of my favourite studios, Nexus - several times before and you, me and well-nigh five and a half million viewers have enjoyed his Back to the Start. It's got all the right credentials in terms of sound and message. The wistful voice of Willie Nelson and his version of the Coldplay song "The Scientist" plus a green message writ large. Green farmer expands farm to factory, realises the error of his ways and returns to green and pleasant pastures. A sure fire winner if I'm any judge. But it's the delightful simplicity of Johnny's work that I love. Kids could play with his farmer and livestock, the factory is all cubes, gelatin coated pellets of antibiotics, and squirty stuff from tubes; the cuddly, piggy bank pigs diced into squares and transported in rectangles looked down on like a train set. The countryside is so wonderful! The ad was put out by Chipotle's Cultivate Foundation. Anyway the film wowed the audience at the recent Grammy awards. Well done Johnny who, to judge by his emails to me in the past, is a nice guy.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Tien Hee, Kasumi Saito, Leo Chida and Nikko Hull "Synaesthesia" (2011)

Sick of the noise, din, that detritus of modern life? If you are then Synaesthesia is for you. It's not an original idea, giving tangible substance to an intangible substance but the five minute movie is pretty cool, intriguing and altogether more clear than this sentence. The film's title is a reference to the neurological condition whereby synaesthetes experience one sense and an involuntary secondary sensation, shown in the film as colour blocks emanating from the source of sound. I have to confess that I watched the film blithely unaware of the references. Googling the name made it a little clearer. Now I appreciate the boy/man/old man structure, also the distress they have to endure. I read that as many as one in twenty-three of us may have the condition in some form or other. It is the final year project from four guys from Massey University in New Zealand, Tien Hee, Kasumi Saito, Leo Chida and Nikko Hull. They used Maya, After Effects and Photoshop. There's an amusing and appropriate ending to an at times dream-like film.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Jaime Maestro "FriendSheep" (2010)

A wicked wolf windowcleaner spots an office full of sheep ripe for the slaughter. Obtaining suitable employment he is distracted from his initial plans by tins of an unctuous, meaty dish given him by a fellow employee. Some females are attracted by the wolf in the man. Others are definitely not although our boy smiles a lot and when they crawl out from under the table even those more timorous lady sheep start to be won over. You can appease the wolf only so long, of course.
FriendSheep is a slickly edited treat directed by Jaime Maestro, using his Valencia team from PrimerFrame, and employing 3DS Max and Maxwell Render. James founded the school. His wolf is a fetching creation, rake and monster both, with a full mouth of teeth. There's gratuitous violence aplenty, humour throughout - those teeth again - and a brisk pace.