ANIMATION WORLD MAGAZINE - ISSUE 4.12 - MARCH 2000
Fresh from the Festivals: March 2000's Film Reviews
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Monsieur Pett. © Klacto Animations.
Monsieur Pett or The Man Who Couldn't Help It
Visual design is a high point in this film as well. Director Oscar Grillo sites such influences as the UPA Studio, Picasso, Klee and Miro, among others -- and they are all apparent here. Flattened spaces, blocks of (largely pastel) colors, altered perspectives, and interesting lines result in a film that is beautiful in its look. These devices are complemented by special effects, such as limited depth of field and an interesting means of depicting water -- hard to describe in words but nice to watch.
Now the major issue I have with the film: it is a 23-minute film about a man with flatulence. This Monsieur Pett is at first understandably embarrassed. He is shunned by his family, employer and the public, but eventually comes to believe that he has a certain gift. I realize that one of the men upon whom the film apparently is based, Joseph Pujol, is a legendary `fart artist' from France. And I know that a certain portion of the public finds such performances to be highly amusing. I just find it unfortunate that such a beautiful film -- and such a long one -- takes on this subject matter. However, since the film was short listed for an Academy Award, one must assume that its form and content are recognized as being worthy of acclaim.
Assuming that flatulence and the people who prefer it for entertainment are in fact validated, in animation or otherwise, my suggestion would have been to shorten this film by at least five minutes. It takes a long time for the film to move beyond the initial `act' of the film, in which it is established that the character has an emissions problem. For example, it feels unnecessary to show the man with his family and in his workplace twice. A variety of public situations are also depicted before the man finally comes to understand that he is not alone and that he should be proud of his unique abilities. This is a stylish one or maybe two gag film that could be strengthened by some editing.
Village of Idiots. © National Film Board of Canada.
Village of Idiots
Village of Idiots is another visually interesting film, but this time with a subject matter that has broader appeal. Created at the National Film Board of Canada by Academy Award winning director/animators Eugene Fedorenko and Rose Newlove (for Every Child, 1979), the story revolves around a simple man from the city of Chelm. He sets off from his home to visit Warsaw, but gets turned around. He inadvertently returns to Chelm but assumes he has instead traveled to another town that looks exactly like his own, down to the fact that there is a fatherless family and a house that mirrors those he just left. The film is based on a Jewish folk tale.
The monochromatic brown tones of the film, which was created using cutouts on glass, provide a visually interesting production. The fact that the story revolves around a single mistake by a loveable `idiot' makes the premise fairly simple, so that one may feel slightly stretched at the end of the film's thirteen-minute running time. It's based on an intriguing premise, though, and pleasant enough to watch. On a deeper level, the film suggests something about the nature of our existence, with the desire to change being negated by the fact that things apparently are pretty much the same. One might read into this message that human nature really won't allow us to change, but that might be just the film analyst in me. In any case, Village of Idiots has garnered some critical attention, including an award for Best Animated Film at the International Film Festival, Vancouver, in 1999.
Silence. © Halo Productions, Ltd.
Silence is the only dramatic short among the shortlist and thus it seems to command more attention. Films about the Holocaust are not uncommon among Academy nods, for several reasons. One is of course that the topic rarely fails to stir deep emotion and that many feel it is a topic we should never forget. The availability of support from the Fund for Jewish Documentary Filmmaking and the National Foundation for Jewish Culture (which aided this production) and others assure that the atrocities of World War II remain in our minds.
I feel this film is the most completely realized both in terms of form and content. The 11-minute production, which is based on the true story of survivor Tana Ross, who narrates the film in English, manages to capture the psychological state of its subject through its visuals. This is done through the combination of live-action documentary footage, black and white animated imagery and, toward the end of the film, color animation. London-based producer/directors Orly Yadin and Sylive Bringas depict the situation of the young girl who was saved through her silent hiding from German soldiers but later was silenced in terms of her questions about her parents and her past. A variety of visual styles is used in the film, which adds to our understanding of the subject's perceptions. Particularly beautiful is a religious procession which seems to glow in luminous yellow.
Accompanied by music and text adapted from "Through the Silence" (Concerto for Cello and Survivor) by Noa Ain, Silence was produced by Halo Productions for Channel Four Television Corporation in England as a co-production with Sweden Rackfilm.
Maureen Furniss, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor and Program Director of Film Studies at Chapman University in Orange, California. She is the Founding Editor of Animation Journal and the author of Art in Motion: Animation Aesthetics (John Libbey, 1998).
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