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This is my second 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. I’ll hope to review several more.

The Physics of Sorrow
Théodore Ushev
Canada, 2019
★★★
Based on the novel of the same name by Bulgarian writer Georgi Gospodinov this half an hour long film use a voice over telling partly of youth memories and partly giving us a bleak, depressive outlook on life. The narration is accompanied by stunning painted images, mostly in browns and ochers. These images are essentially realistic, but often very expressive and sketchy, verging on the abstract, with the impasto strokes being very visible. Nevertheless, one can see that they’re often based on live action footage.

Ushev’s animated paintings are by all means a visual tour de force, but frankly the voice over is already very evocative without them, and one wonders whether the novel really required these moving illustrations.

Vieille Peau (Old Hag)
Nicolas Bianco-Levin, Julie Rembauville
France, 2020
★★★½
‘Old Hag’ is a short comedy film in which a French business man visits a voodoo witch doctor in the middle of a Louisiana swamp. He wants the witch doctor to do something for him… ‘Old Hag’ is animated traditionally and has a classic visual punchline. The result is entertaining, albeit on the shallow side.

Meow or Never
Neeraja Raj
UK, 2020
★★
In this rather quirky mini-musical a kitten is on her way to planet B-206 in her cardboard box-shaped spaceship to find the meaning of life. Will she find it?


‘Meow or Never’ is as odd and tongue-in-cheek as it is trite and tiresome (especially the musical parts get on the nerve), but the stop motion animation is wonderful. Especially noteworthy are the gorgeous sets, which have a very attractive handicraft look. During the hallucination scene the film switches to traditional animation, which is also fine, if lacking the charm of the stop-motion scenes.

Pilar
Yngwie Boley, JJ Epping & Diana van Houten
The Netherlands, 2020
★★★½
‘Pilar’ tells about two people who are trying to survive in some post-apocalyptic world, barricading themselves against something rather unclear. However, more interesting than the story are the film’s visuals. The film uses no dialogue or music, but features very virtuoso painted animation on a visible canvas, and fitting sound effects. The color designs and animation are both of a stunning quality. It’s a pity the film makers couldn’t tell a more engaging story with their admirable command of technique.

Kosmonaut (Cosmonaut)
Kaspar Jancis
Estonia, 2019
★★★★
‘Cosmonaut’ tells about an aging ex-Cosmonaut, who lives in an apartment with his daughter and son-in-law. After some images of the young Cosmonaut in space we watch the apartment in a state of disarray, with the woman frantically trying to set things straight. We’ll soon learn how this has happened…

‘Kosmonaut’ is told without dialogue in very clear traditional animation, featuring Jancis’ own version of the ligne clair drawing style. The film exploits an almost perfect unity of space and time, with all the action taking place inside or just outside the tiny apartment. The film is much less absurd than we’re used to from Eesti Joonisfilm, but still has its quirks. The story has its funny moments, but is mostly tragic, with its protagonist living in the past, as the present clearly has nothing to live for.

Directors: Kaspar Jancis, Ülo Pikkov & Priit Tender
Release Date: March 25, 2005
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Frank & Wendy © Eesti JoonisfilmProbably one of the weirdest animated features ever made, Frank & Wendy belongs to the most commercial films ever produced by the Eesti Joonis film studios.

It features plenty of action, loud rock music, and a weird sense of humor, while it lacks the disturbing qualities of earlier films produced in this studio. Despite clearly being pure entertainment, it nonetheless retains the strong absurdism and surrealism typical for the Eesti Joonis studio, thanks to the screenplays and storyboards by Estonian animation master Priit Pärn. Frank & Wendy was originally conceived as a television series, and the feature has retained its episodic character, being divided into seven rather unrelated episodes.

Frank and Wendy are American FBI agents living in Estonia, saving the world from the most bizarre evil schemes, like a fast food chain selling hamburgers, which transmit a hunger message, and an amusement park designed to let live polar bears eat American elderly tourists. Also featured are politicians Vladimir Putin and Tony Blair, while several characters from other Eesti Joonisfilms have a cameo. The plots are very hard to re-tell and make even less sense on paper than on the screen.

Frank & Wendy is an entertaining movie, but due to its lack of plot and its episodic nature, watching it becomes a bit tiresome. In the end it fails to be a masterpiece.

Watch an excerpt from ‘Frank & Wendy’ yourself and tell me what you think:

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