Every Wednesday, Chris Robinson takes a look at short animation films. Today: Xiaotao Zhang's 'The Adventure of Liang Liang' (2017).
Although The Adventure of Liang Liang (Xiaotao Zhang & Wuliang Zhang, 2012-2006) didn't get a lot of love on the festival circuit, it was among my favourite animation shorts from 2017. Using original drawings from his preteen son, Wuliang (the Liang Liang of the title), Chinese artist, Xiaotao Zhang creates a unique, enigmatic and often haunting work - fusing traditional drawings with 3D animation - that stands as an creative intersection between father and son and adult and child, while also subtly taking us through a personal and beguiling take on Chinese society and art.
Combining an almost video game narrative with a pop-up book style and Chinese handscroll painting, the protagonist wanders through an assortment of historical landscapes from the modern chaos of urban society to the seemingly more serene countryside (momentarily disrupted by bombings) and what appears to be an airport filled with zombies. He seems to be seeking some sort of happiness or quiet, to escape the noise and clutter and madness of society. In this sense, Zhang uses his son’s imaginative and often outrageous artwork to navigate between personal and political, taking subtle jabs at modern Chinese society. All in an apparent effort to bridge the communication gap between father and son.
The Adventure of Liang Liang is often mystifying, but always engaging. This isn’t a film that you’ll figure out in 1-2-3 screenings. With each new viewing, you’ll discover, uncover and wonder something new.
Too few animation shorts of late offer such rich and rewarding layers of meaning, mystery and discovery.