Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Fantoche Impressions

This year I spent two sunny days at the 14th Fantoche International Animation Festival in Baden. Even though I have only seen a fraction of the films it was a wholly satisfying visit. Since I am not able to process too many short films back-to-back, I also went to see three features and a documentary about Michael Dudok de Wit and the making of LA TORTUE ROUGE. Unfortunately, I missed out on everyone's favorite MA VIE DE COURGETTE (MY LIFE AS A ZUCCHINI) yet again, but finally made it to THE BOY AND THE BEAST and KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS. 

So here, in no particular order, is a non-representative list of films that stuck in my mind because of their color work or simply because I liked them:


A whole new way of creating stop motion water for AU REVOIR BALTHAZAR
 First of all, I was really pleased that some of the films I really liked came out as winners on Sunday night. In fact, in the Swiss competition I have seen and liked all of the six winners. Raphael Sommerhalder's gently animated and almost tactile stop motion short AU REVOIR BALTHAZAR ("Special Mention") was one of those films that felt like 5 minutes but in reality last for 9 minutes. I remember it as more or less one long lateral multiplane traveling, two- and three-dimensional at the same time, with beautiful lighting and stylistically consistent special effects as you can see in the trailer below. Be sure to check out this making-of as well!

Anete Melece's ANALYSIS PARALYSIS ("Swiss High Risk" award) tells the story of a man whose head is about to explode from dealing with the many everyday decisions one has to make. At the same time he is not really able to connect with other people. What sounds like a depressing story is in fact a thoughtfully funny and refreshingly child-like colored cut-out film.

I also really liked Fela Bellotto and Etienne Kompis' HYPERTRAIN ("Swiss Youth Award") which I had a chance to see twice. Driven by an energetic soundtrack, the very short film relies on a whole array of original visual ideas revolving around the dimensionality of drawings.

CODA by Alan Holly, 2014

Within a "Cartoon d'Or" best-of screening I discovered the lavish colors of the beautifully lit 2D film CODA (Alan Holly, 2014) that reminded me of 1950s cartoons like MELODY (1953).
Just see for yourself:

OBEN by Frederic Siegel
Frederic Siegel's music video for "OBEN" by the band Panda Lux combined a mesmerizing bird's eye view of freight yard with hand drawn animation in his trademark flat colors without outlines. The lack of resolution of the live-action footage was more than made up for by the dizzying effect the psychedelic climax had on the vast screen.


There is so much to behold that even such a detailed long shot can be glimpsed for only a few seconds.
Most of Hosoda Mamoru's films are based on premises that initially put me off. In addition, I have to admit that I do not really like his character designs. But, and that is a huge "but", he always delivers as a visual storyteller and I always get far more than I bargained for. And although I think THE BOY AND THE BEAST is not his best film, there are so many ideas and sweeping scenes that I would revisit it any time. In the city scenes, THE BOY AND THE BEAST is a masterpiece of mood and atmosphere. Especially in the last twenty minutes which first feel like an epilogue that quickly segues into what is the true and emotionally rewarding final act of the story. And like in so many great animes, Hosoda leaves enough unexplained to keep our imagination going.
Incredibly atmospheric: THE BOY AND THE BEAST

There is a series of recurring shots of the "beast's" house including the surroundings. The camera angles are always the same but the background paintings which are based on one or more likely two slightly different layouts are completely new everytime the characters pass by as can be seen in these comparison pictures:
Six different backgrounds based on the same camera angle/layout.
The quality of these screenshots is not too good. Maybe I will look into this film once I get hold of a decent blu-ray.

I also enjoyed the comparatively small Norwegian children's film SOLAN OG LUDVIG: HERFRA TIL FLAKLYPA which, like THE BOY AND THE BEAST, will probably never be released to Swiss cinema screens. It is one of those lovingly made stop motion features where you thankfully still can see the animators' hands on flickering garments and organically crafted sets. And besides, one of the protagonists is a timid but lovable pessimist and there are cranky old men who tell embarrassingly lame jokes which is at least funnier than all the hyperactive sidekicks in most contemporary animated blockbusters.

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