ANNECY — Again, we’re not saying these are the best shorts at Annecy this year. That will be left to the festival’s juries to decide. They most certainly, however, underscore the current creativity of animation, its healthy diversity. The selection is, moreover, limited to official sections so does not take in DreamWorks Animation’s “Marooned,” which will world premiere at Annecy on Tuesday off large buzz, or Warner Bros. Animation’s hugely anticipated “Looney Tunes Cartoons,” another world premiere, the first of which will be seen at June 10’s opening ceremony. The cup runneth over.
In a novel mix of live action and animation, Donato Sansone’s “Bavure,” literally “smudge” in English, is an almost biblical visual construction of man from start to futuristic finish. What begins as a flesh-colored glob of paint, is transformed into a man, woman and child. The baby becomes and adult, puts on a Wisconsin Badgers hat and NASA t-shirt, before metamorphosing once again into a genuine astronaut. After transforming and landing on a red planet, the smudge becomes a four-armed, four-eyed creature and then a fleshy gun which shoots the astronaut. After its Martian victory, the blob heads back to earth as a UFO, inseminates the planet and creates a fetus suspended in a room reminiscent of Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
“There are 7.6 billion people on this planet. Being different is what makes it interesting,” says JoAnne Salmon, who was born with Treacher Collins Syndrome. A hybrid live action/animation documentary in which she tells her own young life-story, and how she discovered a sense of self-acceptance and fulfillment through becoming an animator. breaking down expectations. Charmingly animated by Salmon in an accomplished variety of styles, and large humor. A eulogy to diversity, artistic, gender, in appearance, which is never maudlin nor on the nose. A Mofilm “Many Voices” winning animated documentary.
The France Televisions short, made with Breton regional TVs and by Breton stop-motion artist Bruno Collet, most certainly lives up to its title. In it, a talented painter suffers Alzheimers until he can’t recognize himself in the mirror. The characters are stop-motion but his paintings, photographs realistic, and the film’s style takes in a huge sweep of modern art, from Van Gogh, Giacometti, Kokoschka to Baselitz. Far gone, he spies a beautiful woman and asks her to dance, but doesn’t realize he’s dancing with his wife. Tender, beautifully scored, produced by Vivement Lundi.
Participating in the Young Audiences section, Sonja Rohleder’s “Nest” may be appropriate for younger viewers, but offers a mass appeal in color and sound that stands out among this year’s shorts. Neon-outlined birds engage in an elaborate mating and home-making ritual accompanied by upbeat instrumental music and set against a pitch black background, which culminate in unexpected and humorous consequences for the showy alpha bird.
‘PER ASPERA AD ASTRA’
Terry Gilliam-esque in its sense of metropolitan malaise and cut-out characters, “Per Aspera Ad Astra” has a cleaning hen dashes to pick up her children, then her aged mother in a steam-punk dystopia of huge elevators, belle époque buildings, as a voiceover reads French singer Kent’s song, “Les vries gens.” A paean to ordinary folk, especially single parents, from multi-prized Frank Dion.
‘PER TUTTA LA VIDA’
As her husband leaves her, trudging off over the snow, a still young woman remembers back to the great moments of their relationship, snaking scenes shrinking into diminishing details of the one before: Swimming naked in the sea; marriage: a village dance, sex; his turning up, young, fresh-faced below her window as she looks down, dazzled by love. A voyeuristic, non-dialogue short of consummate style but with point, “a celebration of love for what it has been, what it has given,” says Italian director Roberto Catani of the Arte France Cinema Programs Unit short, a Montreal Grand Prix winner.
‘THE PROCESSION’ (‘LE CORTEGE’)
An incongruously sexy look at grief and guilt that uses classic black and white imagery with moving mid-century music and “Mad Men”-esque visuals. A wife reads a posthumous love letter to her grieving husband as he endures the ritual of a family funeral after her death in a car accident. The geometry of his sanitized house contrasts with their turbulent love, caught in the innervating strains of Shirley Bassey’s “Don’t Take the Lovers From the World.” Elegantly animated by Canada’s Pascal Blanchet and Rodolphe Saint-Gelais, backed by the Canada Film Office, in black and white and pink and symmetrical lines, but packing a punch.
Chen Xi and An Xu’s “The Six” features a man, a woman and a crane in six repeating scenes, all black and white, all distorted and accompanied by a repetitive ambient soundtrack. The man, seemingly unable to appreciate what he has, is lured again and again by the woman as she passes outside his window. And, again and again, the man leaves the version he is with to pursue increasingly provocative iterations of the woman, always gifting her with a plant. Finally, when the chase concludes, the man finds himself alone with the crane, the gift and an empty window.
A suave toned but bracing 2D short, “Symbiosis,” by Hungary’s Nadja Andrasev,has a woman’s fury at her husband’s mistresses turn to curiosity as she collects their photos, mobile messages, even body hair, and ends up seeing how he mistreats all of them. comprehending their constricted lives and solitude. Frank, clear-lined with filled-in colors in an Adult Swim style, a woman’s large odyssey and protracted character arc towards her determination to ring her options in sex and society.
Backed by France’s Les Armateurs (“The Swallows of Kabul”), a tribute in sharp black-pencil – with an occasional red for a rose or pencil, for example – to director Regina Pessoa’s uncle, who lived opposite, a dandy who owned a motorbike, took her to the countryside, taught her to draw a face – pulling charcoaled wood out of the fire and drawing on his own wall – . was obsessed by numbers, withdrew into near madness. A humble man, anonymous, but who was important to her, her synopsis runs. Exquisitely drawn and affecting.