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Director: Carlo Vogele
Release date:
June 4, 2012
Rating:
 
★★★
Review:

A fish sings his last aria with the voice of Enrico Caruso, in a 1904 recording of the sad aria ‘una furtiva lagrima’ from Gaetano Donizetti’s opera ‘L’Elisir d’amore’. We see the fish at the fish market and on the way to his last destination: the frying pan, singing all the time.

The film is very well made and blends stop-motion with live action quite effortlessly (even though at one point some threads are visible). Unfortunately, this is a one idea film, with nothing surprising happening in the few minutes the short lasts.

Watch ‘Una furtiva lagrima’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Una furtiva lagrima’ is available on the The Animation Show of Shows Box Set 7

Director: Robert Proch
Release date:
2010
Rating:
 
★★★★
Review:

In ‘Galeria’ a woman goes shopping, accompanied by her husband, while their bull terrier has to wait outside.

Robert Proch treats this simple and rather boring subject with the greatest of elegance. His film is rendered in black and white only, with some occasional reds, and the semi-abstract pen drawings burst with animated life.

Add some original stagings, some great metamorphosis, a rather associative way of story-telling, and an excellent score by Tupika, and we can conclude that ‘Galeria’ is one of those shorts that shows what animation can do. Despite its dull subject matter, ‘Galeria’ is a triumph of imagination, and its dance-like quality is a delight to watch throughout.

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

‘Galeria’ is available on the The Animation Show of Shows Box Set 7

Director: Koji Yamamura
Release date:
September 17, 2011
Rating:
 
★★★
Review:

‘Muybridge’s Strings’ is Koji Yamamura’s ode to the great Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904), pioneer of recording of movement and (thus) of cinema.

Yamamura adopts different techniques to tell his tale, using pencils, pens, and paint to a mesmerizing effect. His film style is surreal, non-linear and associative, and very hard to follow indeed. I’ve learned from this film that Muybridge shot his wife’s lover, but there also images of a woman and a child, often with heads as clocks, which are more difficult to decipher. I guess Yamamura wants to say something on the passing of time, but then the connection to Muybridge is loose and vague. Nevertheless, the film is a marvel to look at, and the sound design, too, is superb.

Watch an excerpt from ‘Muybridge’s Strings’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Muybridge’s Strings’ is available on the The Animation Show of Shows Box Set 9

Directors: Amanda Forbis & Wendy Tilby
Release date:
June 1, 2011
Rating:
 
★★★
Review:

In this short Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby tell about a young Englishman migrating to Alberta, Canada in 1909, where he ends in a small hut on the countryside. The young man’s letters to his father and mother paint a rosier picture than his actual circumstances deserve.

For their short Forbis and Tilby use a very attractive form of painted animation, mixed with a little traditional animation. They tell their story using “interviews” with people who knew him and with intertitles, which often rather puzzling tell us about comets.

The film is told rather tongue-in-cheek, but the story is ultimately tragic, and the film could be seen as a meditation on loneliness and failure. But it’s to the viewer to connect the loose snippets of information together in his head, for Forbis and Tilby don’t tell their story straightforward, but associatively and free flowing. The soundtrack is great, using very fitting original songs, as well as old recordings and an instrumental rendering of Gilbert & Sullivan’s big hit ‘I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General’.

Watch ‘Wild Life’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Wild Life’ is available on the The Animation Show of Shows Box Set 9

Director: Michel Ocelot
Release Date: February 13, 2011
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

This is a review of the 2011 film, not to be confused with the television series from 1992, which explores a similar style.

After two Kirikou movies (1998, 2005) and the praised ‘Azur & Asmar’ (2006) French director Michel Ocelot returned to the silhouette style he had explored in ‘Les trois inventeurs’ (1979) and in ‘Les contes da la nuit’ (1992) in particular. The result was a series of ten episodes for Canal+ called ‘Dragons et princesses’. These were aired in 2010, and more or less compiled in the feature film ‘Les contes de la nuit’ from the next year. This film compiles five of the ten stories from ‘Dragons et princesses’ and adds an extra one, called ‘La Fille-biche et le fils de l’architecte’ (The Young Doe and the Architect’s Son).

All stories are original, conceived by Ocelot himself, including the dialogue. Yet, their style is firmly rooted in ancient storytelling and fairytales. Thus, the heroes are pretty emblematic, a given that is emphasized by the bridging ‘story’. In these bridging episodes an old man teams up with two children to invent the stories. The children then act them out, while the old man does some background research on architecture and clothing and such. The two youngsters are then dressed by robot arms, and the tale can begin.

And so, each tale stars the same two children, and almost of them are about love. To be fair, these bridging parts make very little sense, and after the sixth story we don’t even return to this setting.
Much more interesting are the stories themselves. Set in different times and places, they have a surprising universal character and really feel as a homage to classic storytelling, a form of narrative other modern animation film makers seem to have lost. In fact, Ocelot’s most obvious inspiration is Lotte Reiniger (1899-1981), who also told classic tales in silhouette animation. Ocelot truly is her artistic successor, even though he trades the scissors and cut-out animation for 2D computer graphics.

As all stories are told in silhouette, the story depends greatly on body language and dialogue. It’s a little unfortunate then that the 2D computer animation is often rather stiff and unconvincing. At times the heroes’ faces are seen from the front, showing their eyes, but not their mouths, which makes one depend on the dialogue even more.

The stories themselves nevertheless are entertaining. The first, ‘the night of the werewolf’ takes place at the Burgundian court of the 15th century and tells about two rival sisters. The third, ‘The Chosen One of the Golden City’ takes place in Mexico in the 16th century and tells about a conquistador visiting a city of gold. This story knows some very stylized background art. The fourth, ‘Tom-Tom Boy’ is set in West Africa and takes us back to the world of ‘Kirikou et la sorcière’ (1998), with its bare breasted women. The fifth, ‘The Boy Who Never Lied’ is set in medieval Tibet, and certainly the most tragic of the collection. The mountainous background art in this story has the most 3D-feel to it of the whole lot. The final story, ‘The Young Doe and the Architect’s Son’ returns to France. Set in the 13th century it features very detailed gothic background art and a short piece of 3D computer animation.

The best story, however, is the second, ‘TJ and the Beauty Unknowing’. This story starts in the Caribbean, but soon the hero enters the land of the death, in which he must fulfill three tasks to save his life. This story makes great use of the tropes of ancient fairy tales, without following the classic love story tropes of the other entries.

Watch the trailer for ‘Tales of the Night’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Les Contes de la nuit (Tales of the Night) is available on DVD

Director: Martin Georgiev
Release Date: October 17, 2012
Rating: ★★★
Review:

‘7596 Frames’ is a computer animated film taking place in an endless black and white landscape, in which countless abstract black shapes fly by due to an extraordinarily strong current.

One of the abstract shapes crashes amidst the debris already present, and starts to wander against the never changing wind, gaining material as it walks along, as objects keep on flying into him. When the semi-abstract figure has grown too heavy for its legs to carry it collapses, but manages to become a more dragon-like shape. At this point it comes under attack, and in the end its struggle is in vain.

At points Martin Georgiev manages to give his semi-abstract forms real character, allowing the viewer to sympathize with the creature’s helpless struggle and its suffering before its final defeat. The camera is never still, and takes some striking positions to show the creature’s efforts, e.g. taking a worm’s-eye view to show the thing towering above. Less successful is the industrial music, which unfortunately adds nothing to the animation.

Watch a preview of ‘7596 Frames’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘7596 Frames’ is available on The Animation Show of Shows Box Set 9

Directors: Frank Braun & Claudius Gentinetta
Release Date: July 16, 2010
Rating: ★★★★½
Review:

‘Schlaf’ is a black and white film using white lines on a black canvas. The film is very poetic and follows the rhythm of a snoring person, with images alternatingly speeding past the camera, or being more or less calm, allowing the viewer to register what’s in them.

Once one realizes he watches an enormous ocean liner full of people with oars, one also notes the ship is sinking, as if the ship depicts the sleeping person’s consciousness drowning into a sea of sleep. The idea is so strikingly original and its execution so well done, ‘Schlaf’ easily holds the attention throughout, despite the puzzling imagery.

Watch ‘Schlaf’ yourself and tell met what you think:

‘Schlaf’ is available on The Animation Show of Shows Box Set 9

Director: Andreas Hykade
Release Date: February 24, 2010
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

After a sublime narrative trilogy on the loss of innocence (consisting of ‘Wir lebten im Gras‘ from 1995, ‘Ring of Fire’ from 2002, and ‘The Runt‘ from 2006), Andreas Hykade made a surprising move to a non-narrative film with ‘Love & Theft’.

In this film Hykade uses many animation cycles and continuous metamorphosis, not to tell a story, but to bring a homage to the great characters of animation and comics in mesmerizing and hallucinating images that never fail to entertain.

Greatly helped by Heiko Maile’s score, ‘Love and Theft’ knows an almost perfect build-up, starting very modestly in black and white, and with the simplest drawings. The first recognizable characters morphing into each other are Charlie Brown and Hello Kitty, soon followed by Mickey Mouse, Goofy and Spiderman, and later e.g. Spongebob Squarepants, Bert from Sesame Street, Tweety, Blossom from the Powerpuff Girls, Betty Boop, Ryan Larkin (as depicted in Chris Landreth’s animated short ‘Ryan’ from 2004), Gromit, Droopy, Koko, Donald Duck, the penguin from ‘The Wrong Trousers‘, Barbapapa, and countless others, including even Karl Marx, Che Guevara and Adolf Hitler.

Once changed into color, the animation goes completely berzerk, as one long psychedelic kaleidoscope. This particular sequence seems to owe something to Jim Woodring’s Frank, and somehow Andreas Hykade manages to capture the comic’s surreal atmosphere very well in this otherwise semi-abstract film.

Rarely were animation cycles and metamorphosis employed so creatively and entertainingly. ‘Love & Theft’ is a film that can be watched over and over again, without losing its gripping power.

Watch ‘Love & Theft’ yourself and tell met what you think:

‘Love & Theft’ is available on The Animation Show of Shows Box Set 9

Director: William Joyce
Release Date: January 30, 2011
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

In ‘The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore’ a young man is swept away by a storm to an unknown land where he come to live in a mansion full of living books.

‘The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore’ is a gentle, wordless film that seems to want to say something about the magic of books, and that reading good books will lead to more reading, and a lifetime of adventure.

The short is full of references. The young man himself looks a little like Buster Keaton, while the storm scene is a direct visual quote from ‘The Wizard of Oz’ (1939). Like that film ‘The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore’ plays with color and black and white, this time to illustrate how books can color your life.

‘The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore’ is well made, and makes good use of the animated medium to tell a fantastic story, but the art design is, to be frank, very conventional and unadventurous, and the story rather puzzling, which actually hampers the message. Moreover, John Hunton’s music, with its ‘pop goes the weasel’ theme is a bit obnoxious and very in your face. Many critics clearly think otherwise, as ‘The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore’ won the Academy Award for best animated short of 2011.

Watch ‘The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore’ is available on the DVD box set ‘The Animation Show of Shows Box Set 7’

Directors: Stefan Fjeldmark & Karsten Kiilerich
Release Date: 1996
Rating: ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

‘When Life Departs’ is a cute little Danish film in which eight children share their thoughts on death.

Their musings include ideas on the soul, on heaven, on hell, on God and reincarnation. These are illustrated with very simple, but very charming color pencil drawings on monochrome backgrounds. The drawing deliberately have a childlike, pseudo-clumsy quality, but the animation is, in fact, of a very high degree. Especially the depiction of the children talking is very well done. Despite the simplicity of the drawings these scenes betray a wide range of emotions and involuntary gestures in a short time span.

One stunning scene is one child’s view of heaven, illustrated by an ever in-zooming background animation, as if one flies through the endless heavenly landscapes. At times the pleasant animation helps to keep the subject light. Nevertheless, the story of a boy who has lost his baby brother remains poignant and infinitely sad.

Watch ‘When Life Departs’ yourself and tell met what you think:

‘When Life Departs’ is available on The Animation Show of Shows Box Set 3

Directors: Alain Gagnol & Jean-Loup Felicioli
Release Date: 1996
Rating: ★★★★½
Review:

The cinematic duo of Alain Gagnol and Jean-Loup Felicioli belong to France’s most interesting animation film makers.

In the 2010s the two came to prominence with the equally idiosyncratic as entertaining animated feature films ‘Une vie de chat’ (A Cat in Paris, 2010) and ‘Phantom Boy‘ (2015). But even way back in 1996 they made an impression at animation festivals with ‘L’égoïste’ (The Egotist), a very short film about a man only loving himself. When the man falls in love with a woman, it’s because she resembles himself. All’s well until…

‘L’égoïste’ was made at the Folimage studio, which would be associated with Gagnol and Felicioli from then on. While Gagnol provided the scenario and the animation, Felicoli was responsible for the graphic design, which is a charming and very colorful type of expressionism. Both characters and background art is heavily distorted, with houses and furniture being skewed and crooked. The animation is relatively sparse but effective.

The film uses a narrator, being the voice of the egotist and unfortunately all too present music by Serge Besset. As the music hardly comments on the images this is the weakest aspect of a film that otherwise impresses because of its original visual style and very lean story telling.

‘L’égoïste’ is available on the DVD ‘Pris de Court – 14 films courts de Alain Gagnol & Jean-Loup Felicioli’ which features English soundtracks

Director: Phil Mulloy
Release Date: 
1996
Rating: 
★★★★½
Review:

‘Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbours Wife’ is the tenth and last of Phil Mulloy’s Ten Commandment films. This installment is the longest of the ten, clocking nine minutes compared to the usual four to five, and also the funniest.

In this short we follow Buck, who falls in love with his dog-loving married neighbor Sally-Ann. In order to be with her he swaps places with the dog…

Mulloy’s tale is more sophisticated than this synopsis, but it’s best not to reveal too much, lest not to spoil the fun. Joel Cutrara’s voice over is only heard in the beginning. During the rest of the cartoon the fun is greatly enhanced by the cartoony voices and silly images. Mulloy’s Ten Commandment series may be a mixed bag, the series at least ends with a bang.

‘Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbours Wife’ is available on the DVD ‘Phil Mulloy Extreme Animation’

Director: Phil Mulloy
Release Date: 1996
Rating: ★★★
Review:

‘Thou Shalt Not Covet thy Neighbours Goods’ is the ninth installment of Phil Mulloy’s The Ten Commandments series.

Once again the short is told by Joel Cutrara and this time he tells about Cisco, who builds a commercial success out of electronic torture devices. Cisco is presented as the hero of the movie, but his story is a cynical one, involving exploitation of workers and suppression of the masses.

Despite the bleak images, Cutrara’s voice over remains joyful, and the happy atmosphere is enhanced by some particularly cartoony vocalisations.

‘Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbours Goods’ is available on the DVD ‘Phil Mulloy Extreme Animation’

Director: Phil Mulloy
Release Date: 1996
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Based on the reminiscences of violinist and composer Alex Balanescu ‘The Wind of Changes’ is one of Phil Mulloy’s longest and most poetical films.

Balanescu’s portrait of communist Romania is a dark one, but his impressions of New York and London are hardly any better. Balanescu’s remarks are wry and depressing, and Mulloy illustrates these with associative and sombre pictures in his typical crude cut-out animation style.

The film jumps forward and back into time and has a stream-of-consciousness-like feel. Some of the images are very powerful, like a snowman being shot. But it’s Balanescu’s score that despite Mulloy’s powerful imagery, is the most beautiful aspect of the film. Unfortunately, Balanescu’s music almost drowns out the voice-over, making the narrative hard to follow.

Watch the first part of ‘The Wind of Changes’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘The Wind of Changes’ is available on the DVD ‘Phil Mulloy Extreme Animation’

Director: Jan Švankmajer
Release Date: August 1996
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Although the move from animation to live action clearly was a gradual one (after all, ‘Alice‘ contained quite a bit of live action, while ‘Faust‘ was a live action film augmented with puppetry and animation), ‘Spiklenci slasti’ (Conspirators of Pleasure) can be regarded Jan Švankmajer’s first non-animated film, even if it stills contains a few bits of stop-motion and pixilation.

The change of technique doesn’t mean a change of style, however. The film is 100% Švankmajer throughout, with its complete lack of dialogue, its sound design (which is very reminiscent of that of animated films, indeed, with its emphatic sounds – we even hear the nonexistent sound of blinking of eyes), its idiosyncratic use of music (each individual has his/her own accompanying piece of music), its extreme close-ups, its sets of old buildings in a state of decay, and of course, a high dose of surrealism.

‘Spiklenci slasti (Conspirators of Pleasure)’ is an erotic film without sex. The titles are shown on a background of 18th century pornography, but the movie itself contains very little nudity, which is male only.

Main protagonist of the film is an unnamed bearded bachelor (played by Petr Meissel and identified as Mr. Pivoňka by Švankmajer). The film starts with him buying a sex magazine, but soon the magazine makes way for far more disturbing and puzzling acts of pleasure, involving a cupboard and a chicken. Mr. Pivoňka’s antics are interlaced with that of a postwoman, a mustached man, his lonely and abandoned wife, who’s a newsreader (Anna Wetlinská, who really was a newsreader), and the shop owner from the first scene, who’s secretly in love with Anna Wetlinská, and who builds an elaborate contraption around the television set she appears on.

The first 45 minutes are one big build-up to the pleasure acts themselves, and this is the most satisfying part of the film, because Švankmajer keeps the viewer puzzled where all the efforts of these people go to. Unfortunately, the acts of pleasure themselves are less compelling, as they’re not necessarily perverse as well as weird, and maybe this section is a bit overlong.

The shopkeeper’s machine is the absolute highlight, but the postwoman’s actions are absolutely grotesque, and that of Mr. Pivoňka and his neighbor, Mrs. Loubalová, sadomachistic, very violent and even morbid. Their acts involve the most animation, as their acts involve animated stuff dolls coming to life. But by now one could argue that the animation is more of a special effect than an element of style, although the pixilation still is used as a mean of surrealist story telling.

As the film comes to a finale, the boundary between reality and fantasy gets crossed. Anna Wetlinská seemingly takes over the shopkeeper’s machine, and comes to a climax herself. In the end the people’s fetishes get mixed, while Mr. Pivoňka’s mysterious ritual appears to have severe real life consequences indeed…

Nevertheless, one would like to know more about the postwoman and her incomprehensible rituals, as she seems to be some kind of facilitator of the desires of others. Also Anna Wetlinská’s bad marriage deserved a little bit more attention.

‘Conspirators of Pleasure’ is a very original and entertaining movie, but the film remains on the shallow side and lacks the layered surrealism of ‘Alice’ or ‘Faust’.

Watch the trailer for ‘Conspirators of Pleasure’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Conspirators of Pleasure’ is available on Blu-Ray and DVD

Director: Michèle Cournoyer
Release Date: 1996
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

‘Le chapeau’ is a nonlinear, stream-of-consciousness-like film of flowing pen drawings morphing into each other on a white empty canvas, using the hat as a recurring motive.

The film is very associative, but it clearly says something about the male gaze and how it reduces women to mere objects of desire. The images show e.g. a female dancer dancing nude for a male audience, and images of sex. Most disturbing are the images in which the adult woman suddenly changes into a little girl and back, suggesting child abuse.

Cournoyer’s animation is flowing, her pen drawings are rough and sketchy, and her use of metamorphosis is mesmerizing. The result is a powerful, if rather uncomfortable short.

Watch ‘Le chapeau’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘How Wings Are Attached to the Backs of Angels’ is available on the DVD ‘Desire & Sexuality – Animating the Unconscious Vol.2’

Director: Craig Welch
Release Date: 1996
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

In ‘How Wings Are Attached to the Backs of Angels’ Craig Welch combines traditional animation, cut-out animation and pixilation to tell a puzzling but ominous tale about a man obsessed with contraptions and redesigning humans into angels. In one of his contraptions he attaches wing bones to a skeleton, but then a real woman (the pixilated actress Louise Leroux) appears…

Most disturbing is the scene in which the man caresses the woman’s shoulder blades, imaging their inner workings. The discomfort is enhanced by the use of a real woman. Welch’s cinematic style seems to be influenced by that of Raoul Servais and Terry Gilliam, and shares a high level of surrealism with these celebrated film makers. The animator certainly knows how to show and don’t tell; his film retains a morbid atmosphere throughout, all by suggestion and by clever cutting.

Watch ‘How Wings Are Attached to the Backs of Angels’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘How Wings Are Attached to the Backs of Angels’ is available on the DVD ‘Desire & Sexuality – Animating the Unconscious Vol.2’

Director: Igor Kovalyov
Release Date: 1996
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Made during his stay at the Klasky Csupo studio ‘Bird in the Window’ is Igor Kovalyov’s first film made in the US.

Despite his contemporary commercial work on e.g. Rugrats and Duckman: Private Dick/Family Man, Kovalyov’s independent style has lost nothing of its enigma. ‘Bird in the Window’ is a film in several very short scenes with mutual relationships that are hard to decipher.

A man returns home to his house in the countryside, but his wife clearly hides something for him. Why can’t he see the child that’s running around? What’s with the two Chinese characters playing chess? And what’s the role of the gardener? ‘Bird in the Window’ certainly suggests a lot without clarifying a thing. Even the opening scene in which a bird violently chases a winged bug is as disturbing as it is puzzling. ‘Bird in the Window’ may be less obviously surreal than his celebrated ‘Hen His Wife’ (1989), Kovalyov’s way of story telling still is one of suggestion, not explanation.

Note how Kovalyov uses seemingly trivial images to tell his tale: the man throwing an apple at the gardener, the man eating all the grapes, the woman lying in a bath, a cockroach creeping – all these short scenes contribute to the ominous feeling, full of suppressed eroticism.

The tense atmosphere is greatly enhanced by the great sound design, which offers us many noises not seen on the screen: cows mooing, a plane flying by, a clock chiming, the woman running down the stairs and slamming doors, a dog barking etc.

Watch ‘Bird in the Window’ yourself and tell me what you think:

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

Director: Tyron Montgomery
Release Date: April 1996
Rating: ★★½
Review:

A sand man lies in the desert with his water bottle, empty. When he hears the sound of water he starts digging and before soon falls into another world…

Made by Tyron Montgomery (direction, photography & screenplay) and Thomas Stellmach (production, animation & story) at the University of Kassel, Germany, ‘Quest’ is a gloomy stop-motion film, depicting worlds of sand, paper, stone and metal. Especially the metal world is well-done, both frightening and fascinating.

There are some comic elements in the acting of the sand man, but the film is neither as funny nor as disturbing as it could be. Part of the problem is the mediocre acting: the sand man’s feelings and thoughts are acted out schematically, more like Fritz the Cat than like post-Disney character animation.

‘Quest’ certainly is interesting, and a very accomplished film for a student film, but in the end Montgomery’s and Stellmach’s tale is too shallow to become a real classic. But that’s only my opinion, because this German short won many prizes, including the Academy Award for best animated short in 1997.

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

‘Quest’ is available on the The Animation Show of Shows Box Set 5

Director: Michel Ocelot
Release Date:
October 3, 2012
Rating:
 ★★½
Review:

‘Kirikou et les hommes et les femmes’ is the third movie about Kirikou, the brave little infant who lives in some West-African village and who battles the evil witch Karaba.

Like the second movie, ‘Kirikou et les bêtes sauvages’ (2005), but unlike the first movie, the feature consists of five stories, all lasting ca. a quarter of an hour. These stories clearly assume that one is already familiar with the main story, as told in the masterful ‘Kirikou et la Sorcière’ from 1998. They are told by Kirikou’s grandfather, and all take place in Kirikou’s little village or its direct surroundings.

The first story is mainly comical and tells about Kirikou’s mother taking in the stout woman, who’s rather ungrateful, and snores, too. In the second story the old man of the village has disappeared and Kirikou tricks Karaba’s all-seeing fetish on the roof to look for him. The third and fourth story make unwelcome and rather unconvincing leaves from the fairy tale setting of Kirikou’s first film, and suddenly place Kirikou’s village in the real world.

The third story is an all too obvious tale about racism and acceptance, while the fourth is a homage to the art of storytelling. The main problem with this episode is that storytelling itself is rather unfit for cinema, and thus this episode only makes the viewer long for an encounter with a real griot telling you the story of Sundiata Keita, the founder of the Mali empire. The fifth and last story is one about the power of music, in which Kirikou and his friends learn to play some instruments. In this episode Kirikou’s mother turns out to be an excellent flute player meeting gender inequality, as she’s not allowed to play because she is a woman.

All these stories end with the village rejoicing and dancing to the same melody, celebrating Kirikou’s cleverness. Unfortunately, none of these stories is very engaging and certainly not one of these stories comes near the narrative power of ‘Kirikou et la Sorcière’. Much more, by placing Kirikou’s village into the real world, the setting loses a lot of its magic, and in fact it makes Karaba’s presence suddenly absurd. In the end, the film feels superfluous and unnecessary, even unwelcome, spoiling the enchantment of the first film.

What certainly doesn’t help is the switch from traditional animation to 3D computer animation. The film uses a quite unique way of placing 2D designs on 3D characters (a very similar method was developed independently for ‘Couleur de peau: miel’). And, indeed, the makers have succeeded in keeping the ligne claire of the original designs, but nevertheless the 3D animation feels rather poor and remarkably stiff, never coming near the charm of the original hand drawn animation.

Much better than either the animation or the stories themselves are Ocelot’s hand-painted backgrounds, which retain the strange atmosphere of ‘Kirikou et la Sorcière’. Thibault Agyeman’s score is also a delight and makes clever use of traditional African instruments like the kora and balafon.

‘Kirikou et les hommes et les femmes’ is not a bad film, the stories themselves are told well enough. But let’s face it: this is a sequel that adds nothing to the first film and doesn’t do it any service by its unnecessary expansion and unwelcome added realism.

Watch the trailer for ‘Kirikou et les hommes et les femmes’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Kirikou et les hommes et les femmes’ is available on DVD with English subtitles

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