By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
Four works and co-productions from the National Film Board of Canada (TheNFB) are set to play at Annecy International Animation Film Festival 2021! This event in France takes place June 14 to 19, and as for how much of it will be available world-wide still needs to be announced. The pandemic is considered on-going and travel restrictions aren’t likely to lighten up until the end of the year.
Half the works entered into the Short Film competition are available online, and the rest are offered after the event to show what these creators have been up to while stuck at home. These talents have been productive amid the current global health situation, and we have the spotlight on:
Buster Keaton is the star in this surreal examination about the changing of the seasons. The themes of rebirth are clear with the garden that’s growing around this silent film comedian, but to see if he’ll ever transition to the next invention in cinema–the coming of sound–is something that not even Charlie Chaplin conquered. There’s a fear of not sounding like the person audiences expect when played on the big screen.
Instead, what this filmmaker creates is avant garde. The animation style combines several techniques into a well-crafted dream I’d want to be in! He breathes life into Keaton–the films he’s been in–to which I could swear his ghost is standing next to me. He’s not just a person with a “The Great Stone Face.”
How to be at Home
This short is a profound piece to help those struggling with social distancing in current times. People wanting to learn more can visit the NFB’s The Curve website (it’s very helpful) and these pieces offer hope and inspire viewers to find ways to not feel isolated as the pandemic continues.
The subtext works to bring a smile across anyone’s face. On the pages of the book being flipped through are the titles of (to name a few) My Father’s Glory and The Lone Star Ranger. Other titles are not as legible, but I think it’s a subliminal attempt at suggesting life can be good if you start realizing how certain works of fiction reflect a state of mind. Watching this work is very meditative.
Even the music has that tone too. I can’t help but feel like I’m listening to one of Lou Reed’s albums. Unlike his song, it’s safe to “Walk on the Wild Side” with this short. Even though this musician’s song is about promiscuity. the experience here is to understand who we are inside and either accept or deny who we are. This short shows how anyone can have a “Perfect Day.”
Affairs of the Art
Joanna Quinn and Les Mills
This hilarious, adult-themed, look at Beryl, a factory worker who aspires to be an artist who wants to break past the norm. She’s trying to spur a new movement known as hyper-futurism–to which the term may be a hyperbole. The future is not now, if you consider the problems she faces at home. Instead, her future looks to be in chaos!
Her crazy family has her splitting hairs. Her son, Colin, is a tech geek who doesn’t understand his mother’s goals at all and her husband Ifor is a pixie, almost playing cupid so he can be her inspiration. When her sister steps into the picture, their DNA says it all. They all have obsessive-compulsive personality disorders. It’s a hilarious romp highlighted with Quinn’s own unique artistic style to convey the thoughts going on in the mind of this 59-year-old lady. She hates to be let down.
This raunchy piece is just that. No one will go blind at seeing her husband running around naked everywhere, but it’s definitely a weird piece for animation lovers to check out.
The info sheet about Mills says this story is a continuation of her work, Girls Night Out, followed by Body Beautiful (1991) and Dreams and Desires: Family Ties (2006). I surmise watching these previous works beforehand can help viewers understand Beryl’s mindset.
This amazing short goes beyond trying to understand the birds and the bees of human evolution. Cloutier is an artist better known for his graphic novels, La légende des Jean-Guy and Gilles la Jungle contre Méchant-Man, but in the independent animation world, he’s still relatively new. To bring his style from one medium to another is not as easy, and the themes he tackles is quite cerebral. It’s not as action-hero specific, but instead deals with other themes, like diplomacy (to which the two protagonists in this work struggles with).
When another seedling sprouts and challenges the other by evolving into something it can’t be, perhaps the tale here is about dominance in the battlefield. It’s hilarious to see how one plant tries to aggressively assert their presence upon the other by morphing into well known historical figures from the political arena. I’m more amazed at how the ink drawings change into all these faces. This work must be a mix of both traditional hand-drawn animation with digital to pull off the transformations.
This six and a half minute piece takes viewers on a hilarious romp through cinema and history. Perhaps the most pronounced is how the ‘heads’ of notable leaders from the early part of the 20th century sprout from these plants. Adolf Hitler and Stalin are the most recognizable. I’m fairly certain the context goes beyond simple rivalries. Bad Seeds is just that, and we’re challenged to wonder who is worse when this work is discussed amongst history buffs.