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The Dutch Kaboom animation festival is over, but I’ll round up my reviews of the shorts in competition, ending with number six, which turned out to be the most satisfying of the seven programs on independent shorts.

Lèvres bleues (Blue Lips)
Philippe Hamelin
Canada, 2020
★★
A certain Steve tells about one night with his boyfriend. His tale is accompanied by dreamy computer generated images, showing parts of Steve and his boyfriend, interlaced with images of a canary and of Steve’s motor bike. Many of the images are shown in slow motion, and as there’s hardly any action, they are close to film stills. Steve’s tale is a sweet one, but the animated illustrations are rather boring and lifeless, and one gets distracted by images of Steve’s extraordinarily hairy body.

Praćka (Washing Machine)
Alexandra Májová
Czech Republic, 2020
★★★★★
‘Washing Machine’ is a fun little short about a man’s unconventional relationship to his washing machine. Májová uses the simplest designs and shapes on monochrome backgrounds to a great effect. Her animation and timing are spot on and even manage to turn a washing machine into an erotic element.

Jestem tutaj (I’m Here)
Julia Orlik
Poland, 2019
★★★★★ ♕
In ‘I’m Here’ we watch the last days of a dying elderly woman. Orlik explores stop-motion, using puppets of the upmost realism, not seen since the work of Suzie Templeton (e.g. ‘Dog’ of 2001). The dying woman is completely convincing and one of the most real personas I’ve seen in any stop-motion film. The story is told in many very short scenes, all taken from a single point of view, always focusing on the wrinkled lady, who isn’t able to either speak or move anymore. To watch her mostly silent distress is painful enough, but often more drama takes place in the background, as her father and daughter struggle to take care of the terminal patient.

Of the 55 shorts in competition ‘I’m Here’ was the only one that really moved me. When the title words were spoken I burst out in tears. Thus the more surprising that this film about dying was made by a student still in art school. ‘I’m Here’ won the Kaboom student award, and I say it is well deserved, because I’d crown this film the most impressive of the complete festival.

Black Snot & Golden Squares
Irina Rubina
Germany, 2020
★★★
‘Black Snot & Golden Squares’ lasts only one minute and promises us that one day we can hug again. The message is packaged in enjoyable 2D computer animation of Bauhaus-like semi-abstract images of blues, grays, yellows and blacks.

The Great Malaise
Catherine Lepage
Canada, 2018
★★★★★
In ‘The Great Malaise’ we hear a woman describing herself as for a personal ad. Her descriptions are accompanied by illustrative animations in a variety of styles and techniques, one even more original than the other. But halfway the visual metaphors get extra meaning. ‘The Great Malaise’ is a very graphic and highly original film showing the dangers of perfectionism. The film is as authentic as it is funny, and must be counted among the best of the shorts in competition programs.

Average Happiness
Maja Gehrig
Switzerland, 2018
★★★★½
‘Average Happiness’ starts with a Powerpoint presentation on statistics. Soon the graphs start to lead their own life, and the screen gets filled with diagrams, pie charts, bar charts etc. to form some very complex imagery, resembling cities and forests. Gehrig even manages to make graphs sensual. The abstract but mesmerizing mayhem is greatly enhanced by the weird soundtrack by Joy Frempong, and excellent sound design by Peter Bräker. ‘Average Happiness’ won the audience award for best short in competition, no mere feat for an abstract film!

Ja i moja gruba dupa (My Fat Arse and I)
Yelyzaveta Pysmak
Poland, 2020
★★★★½
‘My Fat Arse and I’ is a surreal and rather weird short on dieting. The short starts with the female protagonist not being able to put on her pants. This triggers a heavy diet, but the woman still sees herself as fat. On a dreamy visit to the land of walking butts she manages to beat “the God of the skinny bitches”with help of her fat image in the mirror. Pysmak explores a very rough, sketchy underground style, a modest color palette of blacks on yellow and green, and a rather rudimentary animation style. Pysmak is by no means a great animator, but her images are original and inventive, and her film, which also makes a nod to computer games, is a great joy to watch.

11:11
Alexander Dupuis
United States, 2020
★★★★
11:11 is a computer animated video clip full of ever changing, shiny and glowing abstract shapes, which form very apt images to the electronic R&B music by Raina and Jake Sokolov-Gonzalez.

My Exercise
Atsushi Wada
Japan, 2019
★★★½
‘My Exercise’ is a short comic film, lasting only two and a half minutes, in which a boy is doing exercises with help of his dog. Wada exploits his typical surreal style against a monochrome lemon background. The film is delightfully absurd, but even in these short and simple scenes Wada shows to be an excellent animator.

Hot Flash
Thea Hollatz
Canada, 2018
★★★★
This program of shorts features a lot of animation by female animators, and it’s clear that they can tackle subjects that will never be picked up by men. Thus, ‘Hot Flash’ covers a topic that I’ve never seen before in film, animated or otherwise: the menopause. In this comedy short Ace Naissmith, a weather presenter, experiences hot flashes, which hinder her greatly at her work. Not only is the subject matter highly original (which itself is weird as ca. half of humanity will experience this…), but Hollatz tells her tale very well, too. This means that men like me can relate to Ace’s plight, too. Hollatz exploits a very pleasing cartoon style, with an appealing color design. Her animation is top notch, too, and shows a great sense of comic timing.

This will be my second-to-last review of the Shorts in Competition of the Dutch Kaboom Animation Festival, which is completely online this year, allowing you to watch the festival from your home, wherever you are. Please do so, for you can watch some very good animation films here, as well as, let’s face it, less compelling ones. Let’s find out how the fifth program fares!

Orgiastic Hyper-Plastic
Paul Bush
Denmark, UK, 2020
★★★★★
Paul Bush combines stop-motion and 2D computer animation techniques to produce a surprisingly colorful visual ballet out of ordinary plastic objects, like discarded bottles, and ditto bottle caps, lighters and combs. There’s no narration, but the images are no less than mesmerizing and accompanied by intriguing music and sounds by Andy Cowler. To me this is the most interesting film of the (Human) Nature program, and one of the best in the competition, overall. Highly recommended.

Polka-Dot Boy
Sarina Nihei
France, 2020
★★★½
‘Polka-Dot Boy’ is an intriguing traditionally animated film with hand-painted frames. The scenes are very surreal and hard to decipher, but apparently Polka-Dot Boy has some weird disease that causes polka-dots on his arms. Even worse, he gets some unwelcome attention from certain members of a religious cult. I can’t make head or tail of this film, which ends all too abruptly, but I cannot deny that Nihei’s tale is a captivating one.

Popcorn
Rafael Sommerhalder
Switzerland, 2020
★★★★
‘Popcorn’ is by far the shortest entry in the competition, lasting only 15 seconds. It doesn’t even appear to be animated. In these 15 seconds we watch a very original way of popping corn.

Candy Can
Anton Octavian
Romania, 2020
★★★
‘Candy Can’ follows a ca,. fourteen years old boy who seems to live in a slum near a garbage dump. He dreams of being a soccer player, and there’s a girl he’s clearly in love with, but otherwise it’s hard to make head or tale of this film. Nevertheless, I must say that Octavian exploits a very interesting, idiosyncratic style, strange perspectives, and attractive watercolor background art. Moreover he manages to tell his tale without dialogue. There’s a sad story looming somewhere in this film, and I wished Octavian’s images were less hard to follow.

Überfrog
Tuomas Kurtakko
Finland, 2020
★★
In ‘Überfrog’ a frog chases a dragonfly into a magical land. The tale of ‘Überfrog’ is on the shallow side, and seems only to be a frame on which Kurtakko can showcase his command of CGI. For ‘Überfrog’ is apparently the only animation film in the competition to exploit photo-realistic animation, and Kurtakko admittedly knows his trade. Unfortunately, the film feels as empty as a show reel. Much ado about nothing.

Freeze Frame
Soetkin Verstegen
Belgium, Germany, 2018
★★★
‘Freeze Frame’ is an artful black and white stop-motion film depicting ice pickers and animals trapped in ice. It’s not entirely clear wether this is a narrative film or not, but the cinematography is interesting and the sound design, by Andrea Mantignoni and Michal Krajczok very fitting, adding greatly to the film’s mysterious atmosphere.

Något att minnas (Something to Remember)
Niki Lindroth von Bahr
Sweden, 2018
★★½
‘Something to Remember’ is a curious stop-motion film in six scenes. In each scene an animal character, introduced in the scene before, sings a verse of a Swedish song. This short is well-made, with beautiful, intricate sets, but what’s the point? The film leaves me completely puzzled why it was made.

Flying Squirrels and the Pyrotechnician
Momoka Kato
Japan, 2020
★★★½
‘Flying Squirrels and the Pyrotechnician’ looks like an amateur version of anime, with garish designs, hand-colored frames and rudimentary animation. But in some respects Kato goes back to the roots of Japanese animation, albeit in color. He even exploits his own benshi, a traditional storyteller doing all the voices. Even the subject matter somehow reflects Japanese animated cinema of the 1920s. Some flying squirrels challenge the greatest pyrotechnician of the world, a little girl with an unmistakable anime design. Kato’s film certainly is no masterpiece of animation, but his short is funny and delightfully tongue-in-cheek.

Plantarium
Tomek Ducki
Poland, 2020
★★★★
‘Plantarium’ is a moody short about a man caring a garden inside a cave below the ground. One day he discovers a baby growing in one of his flower pots…

‘Plantarium’ is animated in emblematic but effective stop-motion. Ducki’s character design is intriguing, as the man and baby are seemingly made of wrinkled paper. Much better even is his lighting, which give the sets a mysterious, glowing atmosphere. At the end there’s also some traditional 2D animation.

Cage Match
Bryan Lee
US, 2019
★★★★½
A businessman finds himself trapped inside an elevator full of hostile warriors. ‘Cage Match’ is as bizarre as it is funny. Animated with ballpoint both the designs and the soundtrack are distinctly Japanese, with all the Japanese voices done by Brandon McNeil. The result is quirky, but irresistible nonsense.

This is my sixth review of the Dutch Kaboom Animation Film Festival, which is completely online this year, allowing one to attend the festival from one’s living room anywhere in the world. This time I’ll review the 4th program of Shorts in Competition, which, unfortunately, is the weakest of the seven.

De passant (The Passerby)
Pieter Coudyzer
Belgium, 2020
★★½
‘The passenger’ takes place in one long street in Belgium. We watch a character cycling this street, with the events happening in the background. All the action takes place on a very long background which we watch from right to left and back. This original idea is worked out in a kind of computer generated cut-out animation, rich in after effects. ‘The passerby’ is by all means a virtuoso piece of animation, but the drama remains distant, and the film never touches the heart. Moreover, the film uses way more dialogue than necessary, and lacks a certain show don’t tell quality, with some scenes played out way too thick.

The Last Train
Ross Hogg
UK, 2019
★★½
‘The Last Train’ tells about a very, very rowdy night train. Like in his earlier, much better film ‘Life Cycles’ (2016) Hogg uses a first-person perspective, as if the viewer is the principle actor in the film. And by all means the angular designs and the simple and tight color schemes are very appealing, but the whole film feels rather pointless and empty, and fails to make a lasting impression.

Naked
Kirill Khachaturov
Russia, 2019

In ‘Naked’ a man has the strange ability to walk through matter. This gift doesn’t bring him any joy, however. ‘Naked’ undoubtedly has atmosphere, with its faded images of degenerating buildings, but Khachaturov’s character designs are grotesque, and downright ugly. Even worse, his 3D computer animation is terribly wooden and stiff. At no point one has the idea his characters are even alive – they walk through the sets like zombies. In the end very little happens during the film, and the action is so terribly slow that these are fifteen very long minutes, indeed. Can I say I hated it? Yes, I can, I really hated this movie.

Wade
Kalp Sanghvi & Upamanyua Bhattacharyya
India, 2019
★★
Unfortunately, ‘Wade’ is not much better. This film takes place in Kolkata (Calcutta) in a near future, in which the whole city is flooded. A group of eight humans tries to survive in this hostile place. ‘Wade’ certainly is well animated, and Sanghvi and Bhattacharyya are very able to tell a story without dialogue. And yes, heads off to the background art, which is very evocative. But the characters are drawn in a semi-realistic comic book style that is, frankly, pretty ugly. Add some unnecessary gore, and a surprisingly pointless and empty story, and the end result is as disappointing as it is forgettable.

Asim C – Brown Skin
Ingi Erlingsson
UK, 2020
★★½
This is a video clip for the British rapper who tells us about institutional racism in the UK. Erlingsson exploits 2D computer animation to bring us an impressively drawing rich clip, in which Asim C floats down past all kinds of political symbols and images. This video is by all means well-made, if not too subtle agitprop.

My Galactic Twin Galaction
Sasha Svirsky
Russia, 2020
★★★
In ‘My Galactic Twin Galaction’ the film maker tells us what story he wanted to present us, and how it got different in the end. The voice over is accompanied by 2D computer animation in a very avant-garde, underground style, employing pen drawings and collage techniques. The tale itself is outlandish to begin with, and the images are downright insane. ‘My Galactic Twin Galaction’ resembles little else, and certainly is the most adventurous and one of the more satisfying films of this program, even if it never becomes near anything serious.

Affairs of the Art
Joanna Quinn & Les Mills
UK, Canada, 2021
★★★★½
In ‘Affairs of the Art’ a middle-aged woman tells us about her passion for art, about the quirky obsessions of her husband, her grandmother, and especially her elder sister, who even in her youth had a morbid fascination for death and decay.

‘Affairs of the Art’ is a very funny film, showing perfect comic timing, but most of all this is a very, very, very well-animated film. Quinn’s full animation style is refreshingly accomplished. She has perfect command of perspective and the human body, and exploits all classic techniques, like squash and stretch and follow-thru to a seemingly effortless effect. What a delight to watch such a high quality of animation again amidst all experimental, but often wooden and lifeless films crowding all the competition programs! Joanna Quinn is only 59 (in fact the same age as the narrating character in this film), but she already feels as a Nestor, as a master from a past in which full animation was practiced much more. I certainly hope she can pass on some of her extraordinary skills to a next generation.

I continue my reviewing of the Dutch Kaboom animation film festival with another entry of Shorts in Competition. The festival is 100% online, and can be viewed from everywhere. I’m watching complete programs, but you can easily browse and watch individual films, if you’d please. Anyway, on with the review!

Précieux (Precious)
Paul Mas
France, 2020
★★★½
‘Précieux’ is a rather disturbing stop-motion film about Julie, a little girl who doesn’t quite fit in in her class. Then one day, Émile arrives, an autistic child…

‘Précieux’ is a film about bullying and child cruelty. Mas’ stop motion is very effective in letting Julie’s complex emotions come across. In this film all the kids look the same, except for Julie and Émile, accentuating their disconnection to the rest of the class. The adults are not really helpful, either, and in the end the lesson Julie learns is a very doubtful one.

Genius loci
Adrien Mérigeau
France, 2019
★★★★½
In ‘Genius loci’ we’re inside the head of Reine, a young black woman who appears to be seriously traumatized. Unfortunately, it’s hard to decipher what’s going on inside her head, because Reine seems to be hallucinating almost all the time. The narrative is difficult to follow, anyway, as the animation often switches from the real to the abstract and back. The images, partly based on the artwork of celebrated comic artist Brecht Evens, are absolutely gorgeous, however. Mérigeau en Evens exploit a form of digital water coloring, and often the images are reminiscent of Paul Klee and Der blaue Reiter. One part is done in another very attractive style evoking woodcuts. ‘Genius loci’ is a rather challenging, even hermetic film, but an absolutely beautiful one, with practically every frame being a beauty of art.

Wood Child and Hidden Forest Mother
Stephen Irwin
UK, 2020
★★★
Animation films can be weird, but some are very weird. ‘Wood Child and Hidden Forest Mother’ is one of those films prompting the question how one comes up with this shit. The film’s story is no less than insane and the images are an amalgam of utter strangeness.

The film starts with a hunter shooting everything in sight. Then he discovers a little gnome… Irwin exploits a sort of digital cut-out animation, with lots of added aftereffects. His designs are a pleasant, if disturbing form of underground, akin to Gary Baseman and Dave Cooper. If you’re in for something mental, this is the film for you.

Já fólkið (Yes-People)
Gísli Darri Halldórsson
Iceland, 2019
★★★★
This comedy short follows the life of six people living in the same apartment block. The only featured dialogue is ‘já’ (yes), hence the title. Halldórsson exploits a very handsome 3D computer animation style, making clever use of photographic backgrounds of 1970s interiors. The characters and backgrounds are blended by rendering them both into a grainy overall style. ‘Yes-People’ is less impeccable and less funny than the similar, but much more accomplished ‘Flatlife’ (2004), but still a fun short to watch.

Bach-o-matic
Vincent Flückiger
Switzerland, 2020
★★★
‘Bach-o-matic’ is a short comedy film in which Johann Sebastian Bach visits a photo booth. The result is amusing if forgettable nonsense in a charming black and white cartoon style, rendered in effective 2D computer animation. The best part may be when Bach plays a Moog synthesizer.

Dziewczyna z filmu porno (The Girl from the Porn Movie)
Janek Koza
Poland, 2020

This is a music video to a song by Polish singer-songwriter Hiob Dylan. Dylan accompanies himself with a pleasing banjo, but unfortunately his song is rather talkative, and Koza’s black and white images full of simple, sketchy drawings rather uninteresting. It doesn’t help that many images recur within the short time frame of 5 minutes.

Mom – The Worst Punishment
Su-kyoung Kim & Kyeong-wook Jo
South Korea, 2019
★★
This film starts at some space station called ‘Gonjan Doron-X’ but turns out to be a film about the plight of Korean mothers. Unfortunately, Kim and Jo try to tell their message in a rather ugly and wearisome comic style and fairly traditional 2D computer animation. The images are too often blunt and overblown, verging on downright propaganda, and one longs for a more sophisticated approach to get the welcome message across.

The third program of Shorts in Competition of the Dutch Kaboom Animation Festival is called ‘Stranger Things’, and rightly so, because this is quite a bunch of weird animation films. And to think there’s also a program called ‘Bonkers Shorts’… Remember, this festival takes place completely online, and you can tune in and watch endless animation films, anytime (until Sunday the 4th that is).

The Surrogate
Stas Santimov
Ukraine, 2020
★★★
‘The Surrogate’ is a body horror story in the tradition of Charles Burns. Santimov manages to tell his creepy tale without dialogue, and his digital painting animation fits the uncanny, even repulsive narrative very well. Unfortunately, the short seems to end prematurely.

Warum Schnecken keine Beine haben (Why Slugs Have No Legs)
Aline Höchli
Switzerland, 2019
★★★★★
This funny little parable tells us about three very slow slugs (still with arms and legs), who lead a very relaxed life inside the fast and busy insect world. Unfortunately, they grow more and more at odds with their economical surroundings… ‘Why Slugs Have No Legs’ indeed reveals why slugs don’t have legs, and elevates the slug to a life-loving creature, free from the duties of the world. Höchli’s drawing style and traditional animation are both very attractive, and the tale is told very well through the animation only. The fun atmosphere is greatly enhanced by the use of two weird tunes by Bollywood singer Gurpreet Kaur.

Black Sheep Boy
James Molle
France, 2018
★★★
In ‘Black Sheep Boy’ the main protagonist Boy tries to find the meaning of life. On his voyage he meets all kinds of characters, who are all struggling with life in their own way. Molle’s 8bit designs and vintage computer-game style of animation contrast greatly with the philosophical themes of this short. The dialogue is displayed under the scenes, while the characters utter electronic sounds. The result is a cartoon of utter weirdness, but also one that could have used some editing and with its 15 minutes length outstays its welcome.

Elo (Tie)
Alexandra Ramires
France/Portugal, 2020
★★
‘Tie’ is a dark, surreal and wordless tale of a man and a woman finding each other at a swamp. The events are bridged by images of a rotting carcass of a dog. Although ‘Tie’ is essentially a tale of love, the atmosphere is grim and rather unsettling, with Ramires’ scribbly animation taking place on a dark canvas. The result is weird and original, but also a bit tiresome, and not very rewarding, with the weirdness giving way to a fairly conventional ending.

Jo Goes Hunting – Careful
Alice Saey
France/The Netherlands, 2019
★★★★
‘Careful’ is a very attractive videoclip for the otherworldly indietronica music of Jo Goes Hunting. The strange sounds are accompanied by virtuoso 2D computer animation depicting circles, in which all kinds of plants, animals and humans can be detected. Sacy’s employs a handsome graphic style, and a beautiful color design. Both music and images are simply mesmerizing in their strangeness, and this non-narrative short is over before you know it.

Good
Chun-ting Ou
Taiwan, 2020
★★½
In ‘Good’ a little girl tries to be good, in fact, way too much so. Ou’s 2D computer animation is attractive, but at times becomes quite disturbing. Some of the girl’s facial expressions are pretty unsettling. ‘Good’ may show us that mere perfectionism will bring us nowhere, on the contrary.

Strange Occurrences: Bukit Bulabu
Shi Teng Wong, Gloria Yeo & Hana Lee
Singapore 2020
★★★
‘Strange Occurrences: Bukit Bulabu’ is a spoof of ghost hunting programs on television. This ‘episode’ focuses on a supposedly haunted toilet and features interviews with three people. The short never becomes serious, but Wong, Yeo & Lee’s stop motion is top notch, giving the rather simple puppets a very believable presence during their interview sessions, giving their characters natural gestures comparable to the work of Aardman. Nevertheless, it’s nice to watch the use of jiggly pieces of paper as tears. ‘Strange Occurrences: Bukit Bulabu’ makes no sense, and cannot be taken seriously, but it does show that Wong, Yeo & Lee are very able stop-motion animators.

Seoulsori
Kyoung-bae Kim
South Korea, 2020
★★★
Seoulsori is a music video for an instrumental track by South Korean rapper Peejay. The video starts with a bespectacled man looking at a painting. Before soon, he’s immersed into a nightmarish world. Kim’s 2D computer animation is accomplished, if rather derivative, and the constant flow of images is a perfect companion to Peejay’s attractive triphop music.

This is my third program review of the Dutch Kaboom Animation Festival, which is completely online this year, allowing one to watch more than 300 films from his own home. Today I’ll focus on the commissioned shorts in competition. This is a short program, lasting only 45 minutes, but with its 16 short films this turns out to be long enough.

Clipphanger: Waarom worden meisjes ongesteld? (Why Do Girls Get Their Period?)
Natali Voorthuis
The Netherlands, 2020
★★★★
This Dutch animation short tells children in ninety seconds why women have a period. The voice over is accompanied by cartoony visuals in a traditional style that are simple and effective to get the message across.

#Stolen Memories: Johannes
Leo Rey
Germany, 2020
★★★
In this very stylized short Johannes tells his life story. During the film it becomes clear that Johannes’s memories are reconstructed from the little material we know from his life, for Johannes perished in a concentration camp during World War II. Hence the title ‘stolen memories’. The narrating voice over is accompanied by stark and highly stylized black and white images rendered in effective 2D computer animation. The result is a very effective film on the cruelty of war.

A Dog by Your Side
Selina Wagner
United Kingdom, 2019
★★★½
The message of 2 minutes long film I that “life is better with a dog by your side”. Wagner illustrates this with very beautiful 2D computer animation of semi-transparent silhouettes against gorgeous colored backgrounds. The film illustrates several phases of a life in rapidly succeeding short scenes set to music. Apart from the beautiful artwork Wagner’s inventive use of frames should be mentioned.

Halloween Promo -Veronica
Sverre Fredriksen
The Netherlands, 2020
★★½
This is a very short promotional film, lasting only 27 seconds. The Halloween theme is evoked in rather old-fashioned stop-motion, which is as amateurish as it is evocative.

Clipphanger: wat was apartheid? (What Was Apartheid)
Hilde Buiter
The Netherlands, 2020
★★★½
A second entry in the Clipphanger series, which apparently explains several subjects to children in a mere ninety seconds. Buiter illustrates the explaining voice over with images in traditional animation in a simple, cartoony style and rather jumpy animation, which, combined with the strong sound-effects, reach their goal easily.

De scheppende mens (The Creator)
Maarten Treurniet
The Netherlands, 2020
★★★★½
This short showcases the importance of art and design, both intrinsically as economically. This message certainly is a very welcome one in The Netherlands, in which the attention for the arts have been in a steady decline the last ten years. Treurniet accompanies the explaining voice-over with very attractive moving infographics in 2D computer animation in a graphic style that harks back to the 1950s.

Facing Water
Daphna Awadish
Israel, 2019
★★
‘Facing Water’ is an acoustic song on water, illustrated with painted animation, combined with highly edited live action footage, resulting in a rather granular visual style. The images are poetic and evocative, but the film the film floats by calmly without making a lasting impression.

Gardener & Bumblebee
Ignas Meilunas
Lithuania, 2020
★★★
In only 34 seconds Meilunas tells about the importance of bumblebees for gardeners in Lithuania. The narration is illustrated with very charming, if rather childish stop-motion, more fit for toddlers than the intended audience.

Gouda Cheese Experience Mindset
Stef Holtz
The Netherlands, 2020

Some commissioned films feel more heavily edited by their commissioners than others. This opening short for the ‘Gouda Cheese Experience’ in Gouda comes across as if all heart has been taken out of it due to too much influence from the commissioning Cheese industry. Holtz’s 3D computer animation is of a reasonable quality (especially his rendering is very good), but his visual style is awfully conventional, and the end result pretty annoying. ‘The Gouda Cheese Experience Mindset’ completely misses the mark, and I pity the poor audience having to sit through it.

Let Love Live on
Daniel Stankler
UK, 2020
★★★
‘Let Love Live on’ is a ninety second promotional film for organ donation. Stankler illustrates this with 2D computer animation, in a very bold and handsome indie design, which is completely his own. Unfortunately, I’m not sure whether his vague images make the message come across.

Tonke Dragt: An Animated Biography
Iris Frankhuizen
The Netherlands, 2020
★★★
A charming biography of Tonke Dragt, one of the best children book’s writers of The Netherlands. This biography only lasts ninety seconds, and makes clever use of several of Dragt’s famous book titles. Frankhuizen’s visual style and 2D animation is pleasant and colorful, if rather unassuming.

Letter to My Body
Elyse Kelly
US, 2020
★★
‘Letter to My Body’ is a poem, which Kelly illustrates with virtuoso 2D computer animation, partly based on drawn and painted material. Kelly’s sense of color must be noted, but the most interesting aspect of this film is the camera, which constantly moves to the right. Otherwise neither the poem nor the visuals make any lasting impression.

Life at Oranjehotel
Studio Motoko
The Netherlands, 2020

‘Life at Oranjehotel’ is by far the longest film in this program, lasting 12 minutes. Unfortunately, it’s also the most disappointing one. The short tells about a prison in Scheveningen in which people of the resistance were imprisoned during World War II. No doubt this black episode in Dutch history needs attention, but Studio Motoko uses a hideously ugly combination of 2D graphics and 3D computer animation, which they hardly master. Especially the human movement looks wooden and unnatural. In fact, the looks of this film are so deplorable, I stopped watching it after several films. This is a pity, because the concept art shown during the end titles is much, much more attractive.

Warming up: Vliegen
Sverre Frederiksen
The Netherlands, 2020
★★★½
Frederiksen returns with another stop-motion illustrating the disastrous emissions of short flights within Europe. As in ‘Halloween Promo – Veronica’ Frederiksen’s stop-motion is very simple, even rather old-school, but highly effective. He certainly does manage to get the message across in a mere 41 seconds.

Whatever You Call It
Moth Studio
UK, 2019
★★★★½
This is a delightful little short featuring a happy song about death. Moth studio illustrates all synonyms of dying featured in the song with charming, child-friendly 3D computer animation to a highly entertaining effect. These are 70 seconds very well-spent, indeed.

Jabberwocky
Sjaak Rood
The Netherlands, 2020
★★★
The animator of ‘Coffee’ (2012) and ‘At First Sight’ (2018) illustrates Lewis Carroll’s famous nonsense poems in his idiosyncratic scribbly pen style. Unfortunately, Rood clearly makes some shortcuts in animation, hampering the illusion of movement, and some parts of this 2 minutes long film are hardly animated, at all. The result looks a little cheap. Moreover, Rood’s cartoony rendering of the poem fails to evoke its weirdness. Thus, ‘Jabberwocky’ may be fun, it’s not the best illustration of Carroll’s work. Nevertheless, ‘Jabberwocky’ is a nice little fun short. Note Mark Nieuwenhuizen’s quasi-medieval music in the background.

The Dutch Kaboom Animation Festival, a 2019 fusion between the original Klik! and Holland Animation Film Festivals, has started yesterday. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic the festival is completely online, with few real-time events, allowing the viewer to complete his own program out of the more than 300 shorts and features. More on the festival, which can be watched in ‘total’ for a mere €14,99: www.kaboomfestival.nl.

The advantage of this is that one can make notes immediately after watching a film, the disadvantage, of course, is that making notes and blog posts means watching fewer films. I’m curious how I’ll balance this act. Anyway, I’ve chosen not to browse too much, but to watch complete programs of films. Yesterday I saw two of the seven Shorts in Competition programs: No. 1 and No. 7. This post will be about No. 1, which consists of eight brand new and very different films:

Kkum
Kangmin Kim
South Korea, US, 2020
★★★★
In this intriguing black and white film Kangmin Kim tells about four dreams his mother had about him. The result is a gentle ode to the film maker’s mother, which stands out for its original looks and technique, using stop motion animation of simple, angular shapes out of Styrofoam.

On est pas près d’être des super héros (And Yet We’re Not Super Heroes)
Lia Bertels
Belgium, Portugal, France, 2019
★★½
Animator Lia Bertels illustrates the musings of nine children on growing up with poetic images, mostly in blues. Her images are very beautiful, but also associative, and often only remotely related to the voice over texts. Unfortunately, the images are less interesting than the text, and add little to it. In this respect one must judge this film a cinematic failure.

Dayfly
Baoxingchen Yi
China, 2020
★★★★½
‘Dayfly’ is a strikingly beautiful film on life and death, using the mayfly as a central metaphor. Baoxingchen Yi exploits an extraordinary array of styles and techniques, even live action, and shows a stunning command of metamorphosis and perspective animation. Also noteworthy is her creative use of split-screen techniques, and the moving, melancholy soundtrack. The result is a surprisingly idiosyncratic film to come out of China.

Shapes.Colours.People. And Floating Down
Peter Millard
UK, 2020

Simple painted faces change into abstract shapes and back, in hard primary and secondary colors, accompanied by a hectic soundtrack by the film maker himself, which is more interesting than the repetitive images. Clocking just over three minutes this film feels three times too long.

Little Miss Fate
Joder von Rotz
Switzerland, 2020
★★★½
In ‘Little Miss Fate’ a man tries to reach his girlfriend in time, but God decides otherwise. But then God’s cleaning lady takes over… This is a rather strange, quite surreal comedy in a unique underground style, with a fitting synthpop soundtrack by Philipp Schlotter.

Invade
Man Sze Wong
Hong Kong, 2020
★★
Abstract images, made with charcoal accompany the progressive rock music of More Reverb. The images are mostly fuzzy, organic shapes, but at times we can see squares. Unfortunately, the music is far more interesting than the images.

Cherry on the Cake
Chloé Farr
Belgium, 2020
★★★★
‘Cherry on the Cake’ is a very strange and highly original comedy. Farr’s visual style is completely her own, but the animation is clearly based on that of vintage video games, with fitting sound effects and dialogue in text balloons.

Ties
Dina Velikovskaya
Germany, Russia, 2019
★★★½
In ‘Ties’ a young woman leaves her parents in Russia to live on her own in Berlin, but she remains tied to her parental home… literally. This film seems to want to say something about being connected to one’s parents and to start a life on one’s own, but unfortunately remains stuck in a nice, but one-dimensional gag. Much more interesting is the film’s visual style: the characters and objects in ‘Ties’ are animated in 3D pen, a technique I’ve never seen before. These animated images blend in cleverly with the real 3D wire objects, and are truly awe-inspiring.

Director: Steven Weston
Release Date: 1995
Rating: ★
Review:

‘The Wrong Brothers’ features two brothers who attempt to fly all their lives. In fact, we watch four attempts at different ages.

Now, this may sound like a good and fun idea, but the execution is terrible. The whole film has a very ugly design, very dated computer animation, very bad timing, a very unappealing sound design. Add and an all too predictable ending, and the result is a film that unfortunately can best be forgotten.

‘The Wrong Brothers’ is available on the DVD ‘The Best of British Animation Awards 1’

Director: Ian Sachs
Release Date: 1995
Rating: ★
Review:

‘Scat, the Stringalong Cat’ is a short children’s film clearly inspired by Osvaldo Cavandoli’s great La Linea series.

Like La Linea ‘Scat, the Stringalong Cat’ takes place on a single line in a monochrome background (this time blue). However, unlike La Linea, Scat consists partly of body parts not belonging to the line. Scat has visible eyes, red nose and whiskers that are completely his own.

In this film Scat goes fishing, but he only manages to catch boots.

The 2D computer animation is mediocre, and Sachs’s timing is terrible, with as a result that all his attempts at gags fall flat. What certainly doesn’t help is the ugly electronic soundtrack. In short, ‘Scat, the Stringalong Cat’ fails completely, where La Linea succeeds: in making us laugh.

‘Scat, the Stringalong Cat’ is available on the DVD ‘The Best of British Animation Awards 1’

Director: Erica Russell
Release Date: 1994
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Six years after ‘Feet of Song‘ Erica Russell returned with another extraordinarily beautiful dance film, this time using three dancers in a triangular relationship.

During most of the dance two women compete for a man, and the film features several dances between the man and either one of the women, the two women together, and, in the end, all three together.

The fluency of the movement combined with the elegance of Russell’s paintwork make the film a delight to watch. During most of the film the three dancers remain recognizable as human forms, but at times they change into almost abstract forms, with a strong Bauhaus influence.

Despite the high level of abstraction ‘Triangle’ is a very sensual film, and one never loses the idea that the film is about three characters with solid bodies, no matter how sketchily drawn. Charlie Hart’s score fits the images very well with its quasi-African touch to it.

Watch ‘Triangle’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Triangle’ is available on the DVD ‘The Best of British Animation Awards 1’

Directors: Darren Doherty & Nick Smith
Release Date: 1994
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

In ‘The Wooden Leg’ a girl is born with only one leg. One day she gets a wooden leg for Christmas, but the leg has a will of its own…

‘The Wooden Leg’ is an animation film made directly on film (apparently using a wooden twig). Thus it features very simple, but surprisingly effective designs, all consisting of white lines on a black canvas. Yet, Doherty & Smith manage to put a lot of emotion in their simply drawn characters. Despite the rather dark subject matter, the film retains a lighthearted feel and stays with the girl and her special bond with the leg. The animation is accompanied by an effective piano score by Mike Taylor.

Watch ‘The Wooden Leg’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘The Wooden Leg’ is available on the DVD ‘The Best of British Animation Awards 1’

Director: Brian Wood
Release Date: 1994
Rating: ★★★
Review:

‘Mr Jessop’ tells the simple story of a man who goes to town to buy some perfume for his wife, who stays home, frantically cleaning.

This plot may not sound too interesting, but Brian Wood’s way of telling this story certainly is. In his vision even this every day action is depicted so uniquely that it becomes something completely different. In his world everybody is obsessed with looking, continuously watching each other and the products on the shelves.

The film has a very nervous atmosphere, greatly helped by the soundtrack, and at points reaches an atmosphere of pure paranoia. The animation itself too is nervous, with expressionistic images, lots of deformations, tunnel-perspectives and animated backgrounds. Wood’s drawing style is crude and expressionistic, even if it retains a certain cartoony quality. And even though the ending feels like a punchline, it’s Wood’s unusual, frantic style that stays in your head after watching the short little film.

Watch ‘Mr Jessop’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Mr Jessop’ is available on the DVD ‘The Best of British Animation Awards 1’

Director: Petra Freeman
Release Date: 1994
Rating: ★★½
Review:

‘Jumping Joan’ is a dreamlike short about a girl who seems able to jump inside and outside reality.

The narrative is set around a house in the countryside, next to a forest and a river. Petra Freedman’s images are poetic and intriguing, but also very vague and incomprehensible. If there’s a story to this film I couldn’t detect it. What remains are the soft painted images of the girl moving through a garden and other-wordly places, meeting spirits of the earth, the wood and the sky, or so it seems.

The film turns particularly puzzling when the little girl drops two bunny-like creatures from under her skirt, which dance with a blue spirit, living inside a hollow tree, while the girl seems to change into some electrical firework(?) What this all might mean, remains an utter mystery to me.

Petra Freeman’s drawing style is soft, and a little spiritual. Her animation style is a bit slow, but very imaginative, and she uses a fair amount of metamorphosis to tell her story. The film is dominated by earthly reds and blacks, and the dreamlike atmosphere is greatly enhanced by the sound design, which uses strange sounds, and very little music.

Watch ‘Jumping Joan’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Jumping Joan’ is available on the DVD ‘The Best of British Animation Awards 1’

Director: Jonathan Hodgson
Release Date: 1994
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

This hilarious little film features the most outlandish bedtime story ever put to screen.

A father starts to tell this story when his disobedient son starts hitting him with a mallet. Unusually for an animation film, the spoken tale is by far the main attraction of the film, as it winds in unpredictable directions, far from the realms of the ordinary fairy tale. But Jonathan Hodgson keeps the images interesting, as they illustrate the story, sometimes vaguely, sometimes very directly. Thus we watch the father and his son wandering on Mars, driving, in a forest and on a stage.

The film’s atmosphere is wonderfully surreal, greatly enhanced by dreamlike lighting and great timing on the otherwise rather simple, but definitely effective puppet animation. ‘Hilary’ may not have gained the fame of a ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas‘ or ‘The Wrong Trousers‘, it still is one of the most enjoyable stop-motion films of the nineties.

Watch ‘Hilary’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Hilary’ is available on the DVD ‘The Best of British Animation Awards 1’ and on The Animation Show of Shows Box Set I

Director: Philip Hunt
Release Date: 1994
Rating: ★★
Review:

‘Ah Pook is Here’ is a short but rather pretentious film using texts by avant-garde writer William S. Burroughs on the atomic bomb.

Read by William S. Burroughs himself from the book of the same name, the film mixes computer animation and stop motion to vaguely illustrate Burrough’s texts. The film is set on a small black planet, enircled by Gods, who look like satellites and bombs. Ah Pook is the destroyer, a.k.a. the atomic bomb. On the planet lives a red-headed alien who asks another flying alien about the nature of man, the nature of death and of democracy.

Unfortunately, the images are pretty irrelevant to the text: they neither illustrate nor counter it. Moreover, Burroughs’s text is pretty disjointed itself, making this short animation film remarkably aimless. For this reason ‘Ah Pook is Here’ must be regarded a cinematic failure, despite the virtuoso mix of computer animation and stop motion.

Watch ‘Ah Pook is Here’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Ah Pook is Here’ is available on the DVD ‘The Best of British Animation Awards 1’

Directors: Priit Pärn & Janno Põldma
Release Date: May 6, 1995
Rating: ★★
Review:

‘1895’ is Priit Pärn’s homage to hundred years of cinema. 1895 was the year the Lumière brothers invented the cinématographe, and Pärn, with his colleague Janno Põldma, tells their story in his own unique way. In fact, for 99% of the film we have absolutely no clue what it’s all about.

The film depicts the life of one Jean-Louis, born on November 26, 1863, whose life story takes him all across Europe. Jean-Louis’ biography is told with a voice over and in a rapid succession of short scenes, one more absurd than the other. Sometimes the narration switches to the life of his twin brother, which takes place underground, and which invariably is accompanied by a completely black screen. Little of it makes sense, and often the images are in sharp contrast with the voice over texts.

The film is chock-full of references to famous people of the 19th century, paintings, literature, and, of course, cinema. There’s even a Tom & Jerry parody, which is accompanied by the narrator naming all kinds of French artists. In another scene we can watch Jean-Louis crushing the penguin from Aardman’s ‘The Wrong Trousers‘ (1993).

The film is mostly shot in traditional cel animation, but Pärn and Põldma use a wide range of styles, including rotoscope done in pencil. Unfortunately, the film relies heavily on the narration, and is more absurd than satisfying. In fact, ‘1895’ should be regarded as Pärn’s least successful films, tickling one’s fantasy less than his other works.

‘1895’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Priit Pärn integral 1977-2010’

Director: Raimond Krumme
Release Date: October, 1994
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

In ‘Passage’ a man and his servant, who carries a heavy suitcase, are crossing an empty space of snow and ice. The snow and ice provide a conflict between the two, even disrupting the integrity of the two men’s bodies.

Typically for Krumme even the background space isn’t what it seems to be, with the servant hiding behind the horizon line, and several pieces of paper wrinkling during the fight. This is inventive use of the medium of animation, indeed.

Unfortunately, one can hardly tell the two men apart, who are drawn and animated the same (one has a tall hat, but the two even exchange hats at one moment). Moreover there’s hardly any story, and the film appears to stop only because Krumme seemingly runs out of ideas.

Watch an excerpt from ‘Passage’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Passage ’ is available on the DVD ‘Spatial Pandemonium – Short Films by Raimund Krumme’ and on The Animation Show of Shows Box Set 9

Director: Jan Švankmajer
Release Date: September 10, 1994
Rating: ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

‘Lekce Faust’ (literally ‘Lesson Faust’) is Jan Švankmajer’s second feature film. It contains much less animation than his first feature film ‘Něco z Alenky’ (Alice) from 1988 and can be considered his first live action movie.

However, this film is still much connected to his earlier work, mostly through the use of life-sized puppets, which goes all the way back to ‘Don Šajn’ (Don Juan) from 1969, and of advanced clay animation, which Švankmajer first used in ‘Možnosti dialogu’ (Dimensions of Dialogue) in 1982. Moreover, there’s little dialogue in the film, with the first lines only appearing after 15 minutes. Instead, the film relies heavily on stark imagery and exquisite sound design (there’s no musical soundtrack), just like in animation film. The English dub, by the way, is excellent, and there’s no need to find the original Czech version.

Švankmajer retells the story of Faust in his own unique way, with an inner logic that is unique to his brand of surrealism. For this Švankmajer uses texts from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s two Faust plays (1808 & 1832), as well as Christopher Marlowe’s play Doctor Faustus from 1592, enhanced with text traditions from Czech puppet theater productions based on the same legend. Even a part from Charles Gounod’s opera ‘Faust’ from 1859 is used in a scene that features four ballerinas and which is probably the least essential and least successful episode in the entire film.

Importantly, the film stars an unnamed everyman (played by the deadpan Petr Čepek in his last role before his death in 1994), who’s slowly lured into the devil’s clutches. By using the most common protagonist imaginable we’re given the opportunity to live the nightmare the man experiences ourselves. There’s a sense of ‘this could happen to anyone’, with which we enter the bizarre series of events.

The film starts with two characters handing out copies of a map with a red spot but no explanation to passers-by. Our man gets one, too, and has a short look at it, before he discards the piece of paper. Nevertheless, immediately strange omens pile up around him: he watches a doll’s head getting crushed between two doors, a black chicken flees his home apartment, and when he goes eating he finds an egg inside his bread. As soon as he opens the egg, the man seems to be lost, and the next day he goes exploring…

The film mostly takes place indoors, and like in ‘Alice’ there’s a genuinely claustrophobic feel to it, with a total lack of logic with which the different spaces are connected. This of course contributes to the nightmarish atmosphere that stays throughout the feature. Nevertheless, Švankmajer occasionally returns to outdoor scenes, sometimes very abruptly, with staged sets switching to scenes taking place in nature, parks or ruins, and vice versa. But sometimes more naturally, with the man reentering the streets of Prague a couple of times.

Yet our hero never stays out of the clutches of the devils for long, and all too soon his curiosity brings him back to the theater set where he more or less has to play his part. For a long while, the man takes the whole play for a joke. It certainly doesn’t help that the part of the good angel is played by a puppet as well, making the man’s only chance to repent by all means a rather silly occasion. Thus only too late the man realizes that the devil will indeed collect his soul.

As the film progresses, the man transforms more and more into the character of Faust, and he becomes more and more a puppet himself. Indeed, several important scenes, like the signing with the blood, take place in puppet form. While the man becomes a puppet more and more himself, the puppets around him seem to behave more and more freely. First they are only seen operated by anonymous stage hands. But later we watch a devil, who’s summoned by the Jester, walking in and out of the street by himself. Later still, we can clearly see a puppet of a queen breathing, making its stagy death all the more poignant.

Like the man himself, the viewer has a hard time following the surreal course of events, but the film nevertheless progresses slowly but steadily to its logical and macabre conclusion. The film ends with the cycle starting all over again: as the man flees the devil’s place in horror, another one enters. But the man cannot escape the devil’s clutches: if the devil may not be able to take him in his puppet form, he’ll do it in real life, on the streets of Prague…

Despite the dark subject matter, there’s room for some comedy. For example, when the burning wagon rides off stage, it’s followed by a fireman in a cartoon fashion. More comic relief comes from a Jester puppet, who speaks in rhyme, and whose lines clearly come from the puppet theater tradition. In a way the Jester is smarter than his master, being able to tame a devil without losing his soul to it. Scarier, but still amusing are a bum carrying a severed leg, and the two men from the first scene, who return several times, showing their playfully mischievous characters repeatedly, e.g. making the man pay for all their beers, and stealing snacks during intermission.

Animation reoccurs throughout the film, which nevertheless remains essentially a live action movie. For animation lovers highlight is a rather unsettling scene in which the man creates life, which quickly ages and transforms into a gruesome skull. This is done in Švankmajer’s characteristic virtuoso clay animation. A highlight of puppet animation is a short scene in which little devils molest and abuse little angels in order to make Faust sign his soul away.

The Best scene of the whole film, however, features little animation. This is when the man summons Mephistopheles. This scene is full of compelling images, with brooms dusting as if they were alive, drums playing themselves, crossbows appearing from pillars, and a burning wagon circling the summoner. During this scene the scenery changes from indoor to outdoor repeatedly, with the man finding himself in the woods, on top of a mountain and on a snowy plain.

Švankmajer tests the general viewer with his typical way of filming, using extreme close-ups, virtually no dialogue, fair use of puppetry and stiff old fashioned language during the staged parts. But viewers who stay are rewarded with a deeply layered film that will cling into the back of the mind for quite a while after viewing. To me ‘Lekce Faust’ is the best of his feature films, and together with ‘Jabberwocky’ (1971) and ‘Dimensions of Dialogue’ it forms the pinnacle of the Czech master’s art.

Watch the trailer for ‘Lekce Faust’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Lekce Faust’ is available on Blu-Ray and DVD

Director: Michaela Pavlátová
Release Date: 1995
Rating: ★★★★★ ♕

After the critically acclaimed ‘Words Words Words’ (1991) Michaela Pavlátová returned with an even better film called ‘Repete’. This film explores daily routines, with a man walking a dog as a bridging elements.

The walking man repeatedly watches a beautiful woman passing by, a cyclist, and a hurried man looking at his watch. These street scenes are interspersed with scenes depicting three couples, all stuck in an unhealthy repetitive relationship. The first shows a woman feeding a man, who doesn’t even look at her, but keeps on reading the newspaper. The second depicts a man threatening to commit suicide the moment his love rejects him. And the third shows a couple about to have sex until a telephone calls the woman away, leaving the man waiting.

At one point the dog refuses to go on, and the repetition stops, allowing the couples to get mixed. It looks like the mingling of these people improves their relationships, but all too soon new repetitions set in…

Like ‘Words Words Words’ Repete is a great work of animated surrealism, making full use of the medium. Pavlátová uses a very crude and scribbly pastel technique, shifting perspectives and no dialogue. Her style is completely her own, and very engaging. No wonder Repete, too, swept many awards.

Watch ‘Repete’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Repete’ is available on the DVD ‘Desire & Sexuality – Animating the Unconscious Vol.2’

Director: Michaela Pavlátová
Release Date: 1991
Rating: ★★★★★

‘Words Words Words’ is set in a cafe, and explores different types of dialogue, like gossip, seduction, quarrel, pep talk, and talk of love.

The different ways of talking are depicted by colorful balloons that, contrary to the familiar text balloons in comic strips, are devoid of text. This leads to humorous and inventive images in the best surrealist tradition. The best sequence involves a couple falling in love, but then falling into discord. Luckily, the humble waiter saves the day. Running gag of the film is a little yellow dog, who secretly drinks from the visitors’ cups and glasses.

‘Words Words Words’ is a highly entertaining film, and was rightly nominated for an Academy Award.

Watch ‘Words Words Words’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Words Words Words’ is available on the DVD ‘Desire & Sexuality – Animating the Unconscious Vol.2’

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