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Un Jour: A Woman's Metaphorical Narrative

Don Perro reviews Un Jour, Marie Paccou's latest film about a woman who wakes up with a man in her belly.

Download a Quicktime movie from the short film Un Jour by Marie Paccou. © 2001. 446kb

"One day, a man entered my belly."

"The next day, since he was still there, I realized that I would have to get used to him."

Our Story

That is the subtitled English text that begins Marie Paccou's short film, Un Jour. There's nothing like grabbing your attention right at the start! As the camera trucks out, sure enough, there is a short little guy sticking out of the lady's stomach with his legs and feet protruding from her back. The woman does get used to her visitor, and so begins this film about their relationship.

Un Jour. © 2001.

The new arrangement requires some adjustments and the woman calmly cuts a couple of wide holes in her dress so the little fellow can poke his front and back ends out. At meal time, the two sip their soup from bowls on two separate tables, one above, one below. While in the bathtub, the little man (still attached to his host) wears a swim mask and breaths through a snorkel.

The co-existence of the couple is peaceful and even harmonious; tired from carrying the groceries home and half way up the spiral staircase, the woman stops for a breath. The little man gives her a hand by picking up the two bags for the rest of the climb to her apartment.

The relationship between the two is a silent one. No words are spoken, but as the woman begins to feel comfortable with the situation and to even count herself lucky, she discovers the man is no longer a part of her; he has gone. A large round hole where the little man used to be is all that is left.

The protagonist's neighbor also has a man in her belly, a crass and ungrateful character. © 2001.

Style and Technology

Un Jour is just over three and a half minutes of animation but seems shorter because it moves along so nicely. It is animated in stark black and white; there are no gray tones. The film has the look and feel of being made in the paint-on-glass style such as those of Wendy Tilby or Caroline Leaf. It is not paint on glass however, but computer assisted animation, making use of ToonBoom Technologies' Tic Tac Toon animation system.

Tic Tac Toon is a digital animation package developed for use with Silicon Graphics workstations. This package allows the animator to create animation by scanning in drawings or animating directly on a graphics tablet. The technology allows the filmmaker to create traditional looking films and indeed, Marie Paccou's Un Jour has a look which seems to have been inspired more by a woodcut than a computer.

The animation is well executed and descriptive; the drawing is strong and the high contrast design of the film effectively conveys a gloomy overtone. The transitions of the film add to the interesting way in which the story is told: the black material of a dress and later, the dark circle of an umbrella envelops the screen momentarily before it pulls back to reveal the next scene. The music is simple and slow.

In the end, the woman is alone, with a hole in her belly where the man had been. © 2001.

The Metaphor

As with most films that are produced with great attention to design, Un Jour is an easy film to watch -- there is a certain amount of humor regarding a little guy sticking out of someone's belly -- but what does it mean? The situation is a metaphor, but for what? Perhaps a clue is given during the end credits when the woman informs us that later, other men entered her belly but were either too fat, too thin, too tall or too short. Is the hole representative of the void that remains when a relationship ends? Are boyfriends just "little men" trying to remain in the womb? About half way through the film we meet another woman across the hall who has a more boisterous womb-mate: that guy drinks too much and has a terrible temper. Our lady of the perpendicular man sees the couple and thinks that perhaps her relationship is not so bad. Is this a case of someone learning to live with her less-than-perfect partner?

Moreover, the film has a sort of resignedness to it...a man comes, stays, then leaves. We wake up one day and, unexpectedly, someone enters our life. We cannot help but invite them in. We change to accommodate them and then, when they are gone, we are left with a void, wondering what we did the day before they came. The film chronicles this cycle in a matter-of-fact way, so simply that as we gaze through our character to the window that she is standing in front of, we cannot help but feel her sadness.

Don Perro is an animator and designer currently coordinating the Commercial Animation Program at Capilano College in North Vancouver, Canada. He has made one experimental film in his life: a frame by frame tour of his 1977 KZ 650 motorcycle using a macro lens, one inch from the bike. It was never shown to anyone.

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