Saturday, June 26, 2010

Annecy 2010 (2/2): short films and Andreas Hykade

Short film selection
The heart of the Annecy animation festival has always been the short film competition. This year I only saw three out of five programs. I was surprised that these 90 minute reels only contained seven to nine shorts whereas usually there were up to 15 within the same amount of time. The relative length of these shorts affected my ability to concentrate heavily. I really wished for the occasional two or three minute film that would ease the suffering of having to fight sleep during many an overlong film that began so promising. I do prefer slow-building movies over fast and flashy ones, but there has to be substance to justify the length.

Rumour has it that about 800 films had been submitted for the short film competition alone (not counting graduate films). As a result, one would expect a pretty strong competition. But it’s important to keep in mind that the preselection of films that make it into the competition (only 39 this year) is based on personal decisions by a specially designated selection committee. This year’s competition represented the selection by Isabelle Favez (Swiss director), Jennifer Oxley (American director) and Alexis Hunot (French journalist). I’m not saying that they chose the wrong films but that any other selection committee might have presented us with a totally different competition.

On a more positive note, this selection still provided a wide variety of different techniques and storytelling approaches which is why animation festivals are so inspirational. Aspects of vastly different films leave a lasting impression even if I don’t like a movie as a whole.

Strong primary colors
The vibrant color and background design of Old Fangs is one such example. One of the most important aspects for me is a film’s ability to evoke a certain mood. In recent years, excess filters and textures tended to obscure great design and flattening initially dimensional animation. I didn’t see enough films this year to say something about current trends but at least film makers are now handling textures more economically.

While the story about a cat, a fox and a wolf didn’t intrigue me much I adored the glowing evening and night colors that communicate a certain gravity that is inherent to the story. Although this kind of nostalgic color treatment has become an annoying staple in American feature animation, it looks fresh in this Cartoon Saloon produced short mainly because it was combined with non realistic water color backdrops and ornamental tree designs.

The integration of backgrounds and characters seemed more organic than in Tomm Moore’s bold Brendan feature.

My favorite film of the festival however was a short I have already seen online a few weeks before: Love and Theft by Andreas Hykade. (Watch a full-lenght version here.) With its original treatment of animation/comic history it also served as a suitable 50th anniversary celebration clip.

In my opinion it Hykade's best film to date. All his films are available online under . Not all of his films are my cup of tea but their artistic brilliance can’t be denied (some of them are not safe for work, by the way). In German speaking countries, Hykade may be most well-known for his video clip for 10 kleine Jägermeister by Die Toten Hosen.

Although Love and Theft is an almost seven minute experimental film, its initial rhythmic drive never breaks down. You couldn’t tell if the music or the image came first, they feel so unified.

The progression of morphing “characters” is tightly structured. The individual steps vary in complexity of “character” design, morphing technique and color. Background colors alone divide the film in white, yellow, orange (which he calls red), blue and black segments. He seems to have a preference for the primary colors red, yellow and blue which can also be seen in his other color films.

We lived in grass (1995)

 10 kleine Jägermeister (1996)

The Runt (2005)

Love and Theft (2010)

He never used the hues as pure and saturated before, though. Love and Theft proves that flat primary colors don’t have to look cheap when handled by a master. Despite all the red there is no need for complimentary green or earthtones to balance it.

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