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October 1999's Film Reviews

by Maureen Furniss

Within the world of animation, most experimentation occurs within short format productions, whether they be high budgeted commercials, low budgeted independent shorts, or something in between. The growing number of short film festivals around the world attest to the vitality of these works, but there are few other venues for exhibition of them or even written reviews. As a result, distribution tends to be difficult and irregular. On a regular basis, Animation World Magazine will highlight some of the most interesting with short descriptive overviews.

This month:
(1998), 7 min., directed by Georges Schwizgebel, Switzerland. Info: Studio GDS, 15 av. Vibert, 1227 Carouge, Switzerland.
Pleasures of War (1998), 11.5 min., directed by Ruth Lingford, England. Info: Finetake Productions, 110 Calabria Rd., London, N5 1HT, England.
Humdrum (1998), 7 min., directed by Peter Peaks, England. Info: Aardman Animations, Gas Ferry Road, Bristol, Avon, BS1 6UN, England.
(1997), 6 min., and Cousin (1998), 4.5 min., directed by Adam Benjamin Elliot, Australia. Info: Adam Benjamin Elliot PTY, LTD., 43 John Street, Elwood, Victoria 3184, Australia. E-mail: nigg@tig.com.au.
Plug (1999), 11 min., directed by Meher Gourjian, USA. Info: Jamie Waese, tel: 1-310-453-5438. E-mail: mg@soldesignfx.com or jamie@plugworks.com. Plug is distributed by AtomFilms.

If you have the QuickTime plug-in, you can view a clip from each film by simply clicking the image.

Fugue. © Georges Schwizgebel.

George Schwizgebel's Fugue is a cyclically-structured, non-narrative film described as the story of a man who "races down a flight of stairs. He takes refuge in a hotel room and begins to dream. The underlying structure of the fugue visually represented." Paralleling the musical fugue structure, the film reveals various visual images and actions that are shown repeatedly and woven into a complex whole. The movement pauses occasionally, perhaps to take in a seated character deep in contemplation, but for the most part the action is constant and fluid. The word "dream" in Schwizgebel's description is perhaps the best word to describe the essence of this film, which is fascinating in its complex repetitive structure. One is invited to consider structure as perspectives shift and the edges of the frame reveal themselves (as a young girl swings, the edges of the picture begin to rock back and forth, revealing another image below).

Anyone familiar with this Swiss animator's other films, such as La Course à l'Abîme (1992) and L'Année du Daim (1995), will recognize his distinctive painterly style. Brush strokes, evident throughout the film, and other effects are achieved through a combination of acrylic on cels and pastels. With no dialogue, the film's music, by Michèle Bokanowski, has (as one might assume in a film called Fugue) a significant presence of its own.

Pleasures of War. © Finetake Productions and Channel 4 Televsion.

Pleasures of War
Ruth Lingford's film, Pleasures of War, is also a relatively `textured' film visually, relying on metamorphosis and moving camera to move its narrative along. Also without dialogue, this film invites viewers to speculate on the natures of sexuality and brutality, which here are closely linked. In the film, a woman seeks the enemy general, with deadly results from their sexual affair. The overall effect of the film can be described as chilling, as erotic imagery filling the end of the film is `climaxed' by a bloody victory of sorts.

Lingford created the film on a desktop computer, working with writer Sara Maitland. However, its 2D imagery has the appearance of etching, reminding me somewhat of scratched-on-plaster work by Polish filmmaker Piotr Dumala. The effect is achieved by the use of numerous silhouetted images and reliance on black and white primarily, with very limited use of yellow and red color patches. This choice of visuals enhances the shadowy, clandestine activity of the film. Pleasures of War was produced by Dick Arnall, and sponsored by England's Channel 4 Television as part of an ongoing initiative to create collaborations between director/animators and writer/novelists.

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Note: Readers may contact any Animation World Magazine contributor by sending an e-mail to editor@awn.com.