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Keep it in Motion - Classic Animation Revisited: "City Paradise'

Every Wednesday, Chris Robinson takes a look at short animation films. Today: Gaëlle Denis' marvellous portrait of a newcomer in a strange world, 'City Paradise' (2004)

'City Paradise' by Gaëlle Denis

Cultural or social alienation comes in many forms and shapes. We’ve probably all experienced some degree of alienation at some point in our lives. That feeling of being overwhelmed by seemingly strange and unrecognizable landscapes, faces, languages. We usually associated with arriving in a new country, but similar experiences can be had in our everyday lives, whether arriving at a new school or job... hell, for some any social event (for me, it’s parties) can have the same effect. Really, anything that takes us out of our comfort zone can be startling and bizarre at first.

In this case of Gaëlle Denis’s wonderfully imaginative City Paradise (2004), cultural alienation is front and centre as a young Japanese woman arrives in London and tries to work her way through the strange faces and environments and language.

Denis’ used of mixed-media techniques like using live action, cut-out footage for the upper bodies of the characters and animated legs that have a rubbery, fragile quality, perfectly mirror the sense of displacement and disembodiment felt by the central character as she wanders through the alien urban settings.

She eventually finds comfort and some stability only after she takes control of her ‘fish out of water’ sensation and takes the plunge, but diving into her surroundings, deep beneath the surface appearances around her. It’s there that she finds her bearings through a like-minded people and

City Paradise is not just a beautiful and striking visual feast, but Denis, with great subtlety and originality, shows us the pleasant surprises and awakenings that can be uncovered when we let go, face our fears and get up from our comfy chairs every so often to take a walk outside ourselves.

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A well-known figure in the world of independent animation, writer, author & curator Chris Robinson is the Artistic Director of the Ottawa International Animation Festival.