Moving Paintings and Other People

in 28th Annecy International Animated Film Festival

by Nadezhda Marinchevska

The 2004 edition of the Annecy Animation Festival screened more than 200 films in the competition. The FIPRESCI jury faced the challenge to see this enormous amount of beautiful artwork which was evaluated by four separate juries in the different categories: shorts and features, TV and commissioned work, school and graduation films, and lastly, Internet films.

Nevertheless, it was a pleasure.

Each of the categories showed some very innovative and interesting films. Luckily in the short competition program we saw some brilliant pieces of art. It offered a variety of ideas, techniques and approaches: from merely abstract animation (“The Way” by Qing Huang, Australia) through classical animation (“Lorenzo” by Mike Gabriel, USA), and cut-outs (“Circuit marine” by Isabelle Favez, France-Canada and “Moo(n)” by Leigh Hodgkins, UK), to 3D CGI (Carlos Saldanha’s “Gone Nutty”, USA, Simon Bogojevic-Narath’s “Plasticat”, Croatia, or Sejong Park’s “Birthday Boy”, Australia).

This phenomenon, one of the most important in the world of animated films, has already become an Annecy tradition. The considerable amount of individual films drawn and painted on paper (or cell) showed a rich variety of ideas. The films made in these techniques were very impressive by their elegant blurring effects. The figures and the sets moved in constant pulsing and the lines or colored stains lived their own lives. The fact that this handmade technology is almost never used by the big studios has challenged the independent animators to express their provocative ideas and visions in a way that emphasizes their personal styles of drawing.

“The Diary Of Tortov Roddle” by Kunio Kato from Japan showed the surrealistic journey of a stranger, traveling on a Dali-like pig with giant legs and leading us in to an unconscious mixture of nightmare and dream. David Russo’s “Pan With Us” (USA), is a poetic experiment done with painting on paper, drawing on glass, animated objects and pixilation. The Oscar nominated Christopher Hinton offered very laconic graphics in “Nibbles” (USA) to create a satirical story of a father and a son who go on a fishing trip just to enjoy the fast food on the road in a staccato rhythm.

Two exceptional films that competed in the short program, revealing the personal approaches of their authors, were “The Little Russia” by Italian Gianluigi Toccafondo and “The Man Without Shadow” by George Schwizgebel (Switzerland-Canada). The first one focuses on a strange underground world and approaches its theme both from a sociological and existential point of view. The painting of the film is fluid and the shadows and nuances are constantly changing; figures blur and disappear, and the spectator is not surprised to see the father as a rabbit, or a woman as a snail, in this strange and frightening world. Schwizgebel, in his film, develops the Dr. Faustus dilemma in a very unusual way. The character exchanges, for wealth, not his soul but his shadow, and after this crucial choice even the seven-league boots cannot compensate the loss. Schwizgebel makes his profound interpretation of the old legend and his beautiful paintings keep the emotional involvement of the audience in high gear. He is a master to express subtle emotions and feelings in a very artistic way. Such films help us to accept animation not as a film industry but as a fine-art in movement.

Another brilliant piece of painted animation unexpectedly appeared in the 3D film by Chris Landreth, “Ryan” (Canada), which included some extracts of Ryan Larkin’s films. These very sensitive and fragile images by the pioneer of Canadian animation fought with the sad story of the artist who lives now on welfare and even panhandles in Montreal. The film is an innovative mixture between documentary and animation. Larkin is interviewed in front of the camera but we hear his original voice and words somehow distant and distorted. More distorted even is his look which has been merely disintegrated by the 3D technology, showing the wounds that life has made to the artist. Animated documentary — one shall think that this is absurd. But Chris Landreth proved that this may be a new genre.