Jan. 16, 2007 - Issue #587: Mermaid Tales
Animated shorts draw on life’s foibles
Although you can never really go wrong when you head out to the cinema to see animated short compilations—they’re just like that old saw about Alberta weather changing every five minutes, so don’t worry about not liking an aspect of it—the sets do tend to have a certain flavour. Some can be too arty, and some not arty enough.
When you sit down to watch the Best of Ottawa International Animation Festival 2006, the largest festival of its kind on the continent, you certainly don’t have to worry about swimming in its esoteric ocean or coming up with trenchant profundities to talk about with your friends afterwards. For the most part, this is straight ahead stuff—not one-dimensional and not always easy to digest, but you won’t drown in the symbolism either.
Including the opening segment, the collection hosts 13 different films, of varying themes and animation styles. Some are plainly just to play—something that the form lends itself, anyway—while others push the possibility of darkness.
Because of its real-world creepiness, Guy 101, by Ian Gloudstone, serves as an interesting first short. Playing with the role of technology—specifically the internet and chat rooms—Gloudstone takes his audience on a road trip down the information highway, blurring the lines between reality and fantasy, as well as what we deem to be acceptable behaviour. While there is a certain playfulness to how he animates his story, when all is said and done, Guy 101 is unsettling.
Chaotic in a different way is Joanna Quinn’s Dreams & Desires: Family Ties. Looking over my notes, the word “chaos” and its derivatives pops out at me more than a handful of times. Quinn’s line-drawing animation moves spastically across the screen as her protagonist Beryl goes off to film a wedding. She’s addicted to her new DigiVideo camera, through it realizing that her life has been fairly empty. Like Quinn’s animation, Beryl can’t seem to hold still—if her own filming isn’t swooping about the room, she’s hovering into her camera’s lens to explain her life or getting drunk on free wedding liquor. Although I found this segment’s jauntiness difficult to watch, it did stick with me, and Quinn’s use of imagery humorous. Skip Battaglia’s use of line drawings in Crossing the Stream had a more calming effect on me, however. In it, a man leads a team of mules through and across a river. Definitely more on the arty side, Battaglia’s premise is simple: there is joy and beauty in everyday routine. His choice of animation style is perfect for his subject matter as well. As the lines skitter across the screen, there is a very real sense of the water’s movement, of both its lightness and strength, and Battaglia’s meditation on its nature becomes our own.
On the more playful side is Stefan Mueller’s Mr Schwartz, Mr Hazen & Mr Horlocker. Mueller’s animation style is fairly straight forward, but he uses it to illustrate his wacky tale to great effect. Crossing elements of drug culture, bondage, police and straight people, he takes us on a journey where nothing is as it seems on the surface. You’ll never look at the closed doors in your apartment building nor think of the “normal” people who live behind them quite the same.
Another playful short comes out of the mind of Michaela Pavlátová. Not relying on a linear story, the Czech director uncovers puberty and the foibles of human sexuality in The Carnival of Animals. We can identify with the games boys and girls play with each other for attention, which Pavlátová shows literally before breaking it down to just the “offending” parts—penises and vaginas. And with lightning quick scenes, she offers up character sketches that are both funny and poignant. V
Fri, Jan 19 (7 pm) & Sat, Jan 20 (9 pm)
Best of Ottawa International Animation Festival 2006
Metro Cinema, $8
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