Fresh from the Festivals: March 2001's Film Reviews
Fur & Feathers, directed by Maria Vasilkovsky. © Maria Vasilkovsky.
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Using the low-tech medium of paint on glass, Maria Vasilkovsky has created an accomplished and evocative, if somewhat disjointed, romantic fable in which a man and a woman -- and their animal alter-egos -- go through a series of physical and emotional transformations on their way to a soaringly happy ending. While the particulars of this dysfunctional love story remain a bit murky, the often striking visuals display the kinds of pleasing metamorphoses, altered perspectives and shifting relations between figure and ground that distinguish this especially fluid method of animating. Rendered in shades of blue that give the whole an appropriately nocturnal feel, the film features a tango-like score by John and Kassandra Woodring Hawk that is an apt accompaniment to the animalistic mating dance.
Maria Vasilkovsky was born and raised in Moscow and, after emigrating to the U.S., attended the Rhode Island School of Design and Cal Arts, from which she received an MFA in 1998. Fur & Feathers is her thesis project. Her influences include Alexander Petrov (The Cow), Mark Shagal and Caroline Leaf, to whom she gives credit for her technique. Vasilkovsky is based in Los Angeles, where she works as a freelance animator.
Run of the Mill, directed by Borge Ring. © A.Film A/S.
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An earnest and at times somewhat heavy-handed and overly literal anti-drug film, Run of the Mill employs traditional cel animation, supplemented by Toons and Photoshop, to look at the effects of drug addiction on a typical nuclear family. The main character is a young boy who succumbs to the seductive powers of chemical stimulation, growing up inside a bubble that allows him to float above the prosaic events going on around him. This symbol also effectively helps to portray in stark terms the family dynamics of the situation, as the ever-growing bubble becomes the center of everyone's life -- an insular world that the boy's increasingly desperate parents are unable to penetrate.
Veteran Danish director Borge Ring uses a pallette of greens, browns and yellows and simple line drawings to tell his story of unrealized potential and frustrated love. In his notes for the film, Ring refers to an autobiographical element, and it's possible that both the film's power and its weaknesses derive from his own experiences as a parent and his closeness to the subject.
Originally trained as a jazz musician, the director -- who also composed the music for Run of the Milll -- has worked on a large number of shorts, commercials and features, including Heavy Metal (1981) and Valhalla (1986). In 1984 he won an Academy Award for Anna and Bella. He cites Norm Ferguson, Art Babbitt, Ward Kimball and Eric Goldberg as favorite directors and John Hubley's Moonbird and Crac, by Frédéric Back, as two favorite films.