Retrospectives: Funny Games with Humans and Objects By Céline Giraud
This year Annecy proposed the retrospective “When Animation Meets the Living”. Organized by Marcel Jean, teacher of history and esthetic of animation and producer, the retrospective was split in six programs. Each day was given a theme: “Vanity and Still Lives”, “The Surreal Temptation”, “Hybrids and Mutants”, “Marks in Time”, “The Human and Technological Element”, and “Unbearable Strangeness”.
Due to the nationality of the programmer the film showed the importance of Canadian animation. We saw several films by Norman McLaren (1914-1987) introducing the retrospective in the Centre Pompidou in fall in Paris and the edition of a box set by the National Film Board of Canada with seven DVDs, all his films and some documentaries, shown especially in Annecy. In Opening Speech McLaren in person is on stage with a microphone always moving away from him. Between irony and real humor McLaren doesn’t hesitate to laugh at himself in front of an imaginary audience. The microphone like the chair in A Chairy Tale (presented in the program “The Surreal Temptation”) is a real character, like the human being, with flesh and blood. Between violence and seduction the two characters try to find an arrangement. The object refuses to be only a useful thing. Quite the opposite happens in Pas de Deux (shown in the program “Hybrids and Mutants”): Two human beings struggle in an incredible dance where the movements, fluids at the beginning, will be decomposed to form a living sculpture. The body and the environment are merging. The body can go out of itself to stay carved in the support.
Around the key person Norman McLaren we saw a lot of other directors and styles starting with the origins of cinema, Emile Cohl and Charley Bowers (one of the favorite directors of Serge Bromberg, the director of the Annecy festival) and ending in the last years with Chris Landreth, Rosto and even Chris Cunningham. Maybe the most impressive and logical films were the ones using new technologies. Ryan by Chris Landreth presents Landreth and Ryan Larkin, the unknown genius of animation, as 3D characters in a special documentary with Landreth asking Larkin questions. The characters are eaten from the inside and falling into pieces on account of their mental decline. Rosto in Jona/Tomberry uses several techniques: 3D, real images, rotoscopy. The characters are made of several parts of several actors from the face to the voice. Chris Cunningham, in Björk’s video clip All Is Full of Love, invents an amazing creature, a robot with a human face and feelings.
Finally, this retrospective was rich enough to propose all kinds of meetings between living and animation despite of the fact that some films were weaker than others – a beautiful lesson of cinema.