ANNECY, France — We’re not saying these are the best shorts at Annecy this year. Nor the forerunners for prizes. Chosen principally from the shorts in the short film competition, and buzzed up titles hitting Annecy, they are, however, undeniable proof of the huge creativity of contemporary Annecy. If Annecy is about discovery, much is to be found in these sections.
2D, from Belgium Lumière’s Lunanime, co-producers of “Phantom Boy” and 2018 competition contender “Funan.” But this is 2D with an edge, and psychological observance as two BBF’s girls sorority is prized apart by the onset of puberty, with one taking up with the other’s brother. Could a man have directed this? Probably yes, but almost certainly not so knowingly.
‘THE CAT’S REGRET’
Hitchcock in exquisite 2D, from the directors and animation studio behind 2012 Oscar-nominated feature “A Cat in Paris,” Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol and France’s Folimage, “The Cat’s Regret,” typically for its creators, sports some of the most exquisitely toned, composed 2D animation you’ll see at Annecy. But as ever with these directors, it also has an edge. A young kid who hates his little brother is taken to the house of an old codger, who wears one back glove. In a building psychological thriller, the gruff old man explains he killed his own younger brother and offers to help the kid out. Belgium’s Lunanime, co-produces; part of free-to-air network Arte France VOD offer; backed by French film board CNC.
‘EDGE OF ALCHEMY’
Silent cinema stars Mary Pickford and Janet Gaynor reappear as Frankenstein like scientists in Stacey Steers’ “Edge of Alchemy.” But the subject of the experiments is the inner world of women. Built by hand from fragments of 19th century engravings and illustrations and the third film in a trilogy, which took five years to complete, according to notes on Steers’ website. Surreal and hypnotic, a crafted, intuitive mind trip.
Related with an Edgar Allen Poe-ish sense of building febrile obsession, Martina Scarpelli’s “Egg,” recounts, a woman’s battle with anorexia, encapsulated in her fantasy horror at eating and digesting the egg. Black and white hand-drawn animation, the imagery is simple but grotesque, and all the more effective for that. Part of a new female frankness at Annecy.
Another portrait of female feeling. Canada’s Justine Vuylsteker uses the last pinscreen made in 1977 by the legendary Alexandre Alexeieff and Claire Parker in order to create a vignette of a woman at a window lost in reverie of past embraces, knit through with an extraordinary tonal range of grays from the impressionistic to near photo naturalist.
’RAYMONDE, OR THE VERTICAL ESCAPE’
Sarah Van Dem Boom’s follow up to “In Deep Waters,” a touching portrait of a 60-year-old owlish spinster who dreams of “sex, love, and the vastness of the sky.” Her advances towards the young postman make her the laughing-stock of the local village. She “realizes very late that she has sacrificed her life to conform to a model that does not fit her. She has an owl face and an owl soul,” Van Den Boom comments. She can only find satisfaction completely changing her mindset.
The latest from Canada’s Patrick Bouchard, chosen by Edouard Weintrop for his final Cannes Directors’ Fortnight, and another memorable exercise in grimy stop-motion. A man dissects a cadaver on a mortuary slab using macabre ancient machinery, finally tearing opens the corpse’s chest and rips out its heart, a stone anvil. The first installment the National Film Board’s NFB Pause series where creators explain their creative process, here, grim literal and metaphorical introspection.
‘TEARS OF CHIWEN’
Chinese artist and director Sun Xun –previously competing at the Annecy, Rotterdam, Berlin and Rome festivals– unleashes a veritable tour-de-force of heritage Chinese mythology, culture and iconography with an enormous diversity of techniques, styles. Short is an spinoff of a solo art show seen in galleries outside China. Produced by Pi Animation Studio.
Produced by Les Films Pelleas, backer of movies by Mia Hansen Love, Serge Bozon, Pierre Salvadori, another one-man tour de force, though in short format, of the 2D hand-drawn broad-brushstroke craft of Sebastien Laudenbach whose Annecy winner “The Girl Without Hands” was a Pyramide-sold Gkids U.S. pick-up. Here, set in 1899, a widow remembers what her dead husband made her feel, depicted via metaphoric vignettes, an image of sexuality contrasting with Victorian propriety. Laudenbach handles artistic direction, script, graphics, sets, animation, compositing and editing.
Pixar story artist Trevor Jiménez’s take on life as a young kid shuttling between recently divorced parents, mixing surreal dream-like moments with the domestic realities of a broken-up family, produced through the Pixar Co-op Program, capturing the cherished moments alone with mom and dad before or after both move on to new partners. Observant and pointedly styled.