Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Annecy, part deux
I had every intention of updating the blog as the week went by, but that, along with exercising and breathing, fell by the wayside- all victims of the frenetic schedule of films and feasts, that is the sad lot of the Annecy judge.
Each day was packed with more delicious food than you can imagine and every meal was served in the most absurdly picturesque spot, each one more beautiful than the last. I'll ask you to forgive the postcard pictures peppering my commentary in these posts. Annecy is as much about the films as the setting in which they are shown.
There are three judges assigned to each of the four categories and friendships were quickly forming as the days flew by. I for one, am coming away delighted to have been able to share the whole thing with two genuinely nice human beings who happen to be incredibly talented as well. I mentioned them earlier, but now, many screenings, many meals, and many glasses of wine later, I feel in a much better position to introduce them.
I confess to not having been aware of the work of Juan Pablo Zaramella, before meeting him at the beginning of the festival, but since then I’ve been introduced to his many talents, but probably not all of them. He is famous for his short films, most recent among them, Journey to Mars, a sweet and atmospheric stop-motion fantasy about a rural farmers’ promise to drive his young grandson to the Red Planet in his pickup truck. This warm and charming tale is a perfect reflection of Juan Pablo. He has a rock solid artistic sensibility, which is coupled with a kind and gentle demeanor. As the week unspooled I was also to discover that he is a masterful illustrator as well, with a truly inventive graphic sense and a surprising sense of humor. As I mentioned before, Juan Pablo, Nick and I were responsible for judging the work of students graduating from animation schools around the world and Juan Pablo was selected by the festival to represent us on stage in the closing ceremony. After revealing the fruits of our labors, he surprised us all with a hilarious film he created in the space of four hours on his iphone with help from his pal, whose name I will add when I find it.
I couldn’t find time this week to finish a sentence and he somehow found time to make a movie.
If you met Nick Park without knowing anything about him, you would probably say, “he reminds me of that animated guy who loves cheese”. He is of course, the creator of the classic series of stop motion films starring Wallace and Gromit and the connection is impossible to miss . He has the habit of saying “cheese” whenever a photo is taken of him and his voice comes straight from that universe. Trust me, when hearing it for the first time, it is almost surreal. No one can say the word "cheese", like the guy who made a catch phrase of "Wensleydale".
After viewing over forty films and debating the merits of each and every one, here are our results:
The Lighthouse Keeper (Best Graduation Film)
is the wordless story of a lighthouse’s lone inhabitant, dozing to the tapping of insects against the windows of his beacon. Things take an unusual turn when one of the bugs that appears from out of the fog is gigantic.
The color, lighting and mix of traditional and cg animation is a wonder. And from my perspective, the character design is top notch. I love this piece and after having watched it several times still find new things to appreciate in it. For example, that moment when the keeper decides he’s had enough of his unwelcome guest and flips his broom to become a weapon. A quick tap of it’s handle on the ground signals his resolve.
The conflict, the climax, and an unexpected act of grace, create a satisfying story, all in the space of a few minutes.
David François, Rony Hotin, Jérémie Moreau, Baptiste Rogron, Gaëlle Thierry, Maïlys Vallade
GOBELINS, L'ÉCOLE DE L'IMAGE
Sauvage (Special Jury Award)
This darkly comic film begins with a man running through the streets, naked and howling. Les gendarmes stop him and demand to know what he is up to. He explains that he wants to live in the woods and finally become a wolf. The cops haul him off and to our surprise, drop him off in the woods. From this point, I was hooked. In the forest, he meets a veteran wolfman who obliges our hero by biting him in the arm. From there we witness his transformation, all in his mind, and weirdly played out upon a stage. Quirkily drawn and loosely colored, the film surprises at every turn-from the aspiring lycanthropes' delivery to the woods to his eventual deliverance as a wolfman.
LA POUDRIÈRE, ÉCOLE DU FILM D'ANIMATION
Once again we chose a hand drawn piece. It might be easy to conclude that our choices as a jury reflected each of our penchant for the hand made and hand-drawn, which may very well be so. But my main criterion was that the film should affect me, which of course is in itself a subjective requirement. How could it not be? What else can one use, but his gut? There were fewer full-on digitally animated films than I expected. This one was hand drawn in the truest sense of the term. Clearly influenced by Inuit and other aboriginal art, Lebensader, depicts a child showing the wonders of Nature to her father, all in a single leaf. Fluidly morphing birds feed their young and transform into fish, into bugs, into larger mammals; a celebration of life and renewal. I know, it sounds precariously sweet, but it’s balanced by the father’s response. Grim faced, he turns from her to reveal the scars on his back ,which tell the other side of the story. Predatory birds clutch victims, and transform into huffing demons who bare their fangs in equally fluid, but more sinister imagery. Lebensader is moving, both visually and thematically. I related deeply to the father’s sad task of doling out the painful truth of this world to his child. Life is not all fairies and unicorns and the task of revealing that, however piecemeal, is a heartbreaking one.
The biggest surprise in the whole jury process was when the winners came up to the stage to receive their awards. My God, they looked so young to me. Apart from feeling my age, it made me realize how tremendously talented the competitors are.
Congratulations to all of you!