First-rate compilation “Nine Nation Animation” sprawls not just in terms of geography but technique, theme, style and tone, offering a filling multicourse meal for the discerning grownup toon fan. Package has been playing runs of various length in U.S. rep houses, cinematheques, museums and other venues since late September; bookings should stretch well into the new year, presaging transition into home-format sales.

Distributed and curated by Gotham nonprofit the World According to Shorts (named after annual programs commenced a decade ago at the Brooklyn Academy of Music), “Nine” reps that org’s first all-animation collection.

It starts off on a raffish note with Kajsa Naess’ Norwegian “Deconstruction Workers,” in which two hard hats (played by animate stills of two actors) debate the meaning of life — or whether there is any — while oblivious to society collapsing around them and their own mortal peril. Using a somewhat similar media mix to different ends is Robert Bradbrook’s Brit entry “Home Road Movies,” which starts out as a nostalgic look back at driving vacations that seemed wonderful in childhood, then turned a little sad as the kids grew old enough to realize the less-than-wondrous shortcomings of their aging dad (Bill Paterson, a live figure amid vintage advertising imagery).

Also ambitious in narrative terms are Patrick Pleutin’s French “Bamiyan,” which tells the history of Afghanistan’s Taliban-destroyed giant Buddha statues in rich, oil-painterly abstractions; and Jonas Odell’s 15-minute closer “Never Like the First Time!” in which four Swedish interviewees recall their first sexual experiences — by turns boastful, disappointing, traumatic and tenderly romantic — which are illustrated in four distinctly different ways, from willfully crude line drawings to collage.

Disparate as they are, these are all delights. Likelier to divide viewers are Turkish toon “Average 40 Matches,” a computer-animation vignette set to piano-roll Paganini that feels thin even at just three minutes; South Africa’s “The Tale of How,” an eccentric mix of Bosch-like graphics and classical chorale narrating a nonsense story that’s a good deal closer to Lewis Carroll than Tim Burton’s recent stab; and Croatian entry “She Who Measures,” whose grotesque landscape of futuristic conformism recalls the Zagreb school of the ’60s. That’s not a bad thing, although the slaves-of-consumer-marketing parable feels equally old and tired.

The two funniest works are back-to-back in the middle of the omnibus. Jonas Geirnaert’s Cannes prizewinner “Flatlife” is a Tati-like orchestration of slapstick destruction by a quartet of adjacent apartment dwellers. Its drawing style and military-percussion soundtrack are both perfectly simple and simply perfect.

There’s wilder fun in David O’Reilly’s Irish-German short “Please Say Something” (winner of a Golden Bear at Berlin), which chronicles stormy domestic relations over the long haul between an office-drone cat and its mercurial mouse spouse. Designed (sound included) like a primitive videogame, with the characters’ gibberish translated into subtitles, pic mixes neurotic modern-life banality and anarchic, sci-fi-tinged absurdity in a way that feels so brilliantly fresh, viewers might well wish for an immediate second viewing.

Nine Nation Animation


  • Production: A World According to Shorts presentation. Produced by Jonathan Howell.
  • Crew: Camera (HD, DV, DVD). Reviewed at Roxie Cinema, San Francisco, Nov. 9, 2010. Running time: 82 MIN. <br> <br> <b>Deconstruction Workers</b> <br> <i>(Norway)</i> <br> A Mikrofilm production. Produced by Lisa Fearnley. <br> Directed, edited by Kajsa Naess. Screenplay, Kjartan Helleve. Camera (color, HD), Janne Hansen, Naess; music, Helleve; production designers, Cecile Ellefsen, Magnhild Winsnes, Ketil Bruun Andersen, Naess. Original title: <i>Bygningsarbeidere.</i> <br> <b>With:</b> Anders Mordal, Jan Gunnar Roise. <br> <br> <b>Average 40 Matches</b> <br> <i>(Turkey)</i> <br> An Ortalama 40 production. Produced, directed, written by Burkay Dogan, M. Sakir Arslan. (Color); editor, Emre Yalgin; music, Niccolo Paganini. Original title: <i>Ortalama 40 cop.</i> <br> <br> <b>Bamiyan</b> <br> <i>(France-Belgium)</i> <br> A Les Films de l'Arlequin presentation in association with Arte France of an Arte France Unite de Programmes Cinema production. Produced by Dora Benousilio. <br> Directed, written by Patrick Pleutin. Camera (color), Nicolas Pfeiffer; editor, Celine Kelepikis; music, Philippe Eidel. <br> <b>With:</b> Fatima Husseini, Mohamad Husseini, Ahmad Ali, Chen Dehong. <br> (Farsi, Chinese dialogue) <br> <br> <b>Please Say Something</b> <br> <i>(Ireland-Germany)</i> <br> A David O'Reilly production. Produced, directed, written, edited by David O'Reilly. (Color, HD); music, Bram Meindersma, David Kamp. <br> <br> <b>Flatlife</b> <br> <i>(Belgium)</i> <br> A Kask presentation. Produced by Jean-Marie Demeyer. <br> Directed, written, edited by Jonas Geirnaert. (Color); music, Ward Seyssens. <br> <br> <b>She Who Measures</b> <br> <i>(Croatia)</i> <br> A Lemonade3d production. Produced by Ivan Ratkovic, Lado Skorin. Executive producer, Vanja Andrijevic. <br> Directed, written by Veljko Popovic. (Color, DigiBeta); music, Hrvoje Stefotic. Original title: Ona koja mjeri. <br> <br> <b>Home Road Movies</b> <br> <i>(U.K.)</i> <br> A Finetake production for Channel 4 in association with Arts Council of England. Produced by Dick Arnall. <br> Directed by Robert Bradbrook. Screenplay, Ian Seller. Camera (color), Sam James; editor, Tony Fish. <br> <b>With:</b> Bill Paterson, Phelim McDermott, Arnal Anwar, Joseph Ariolt-Edwards, Tom Eilenberg, Rob Robinson, Gem Souleyman. <br> <br> <b>The Tale of How</b> <br> <i>(South Africa)</i> <br> A Blackheart Gang presentation. Produced by the Blackheart Gang. <br> Directed by Markus, Ree, Jannes Hendrikz. Screenplay, Markus. (Color, Beta SP); music, Markus. <br> (English dialogue) <br> <br> <b>Never Like the First Time!</b> <br> <i>(Sweden)</i> <br> A FilmTecknarna production. Produced by Susanne Granlof. <br> Directed, written, edited by Jonas Odell. Camera (color), Per Helin; music, Krister Linder; production designer, Odell. Original title: <i>Aldrig som forsta gangen!</i> <br> <b>With:</b> Mikael Brolin, Hanna Eklof, Rebecca Haridi, Jenny Holstrom, Torbjorn Jager, Johanna Karlsson, Frederik Ostling.