World Animation Award

The Film Festival has an impressive commitment to showing world-class short films so I always make sure to catch a few of the sessions – the animation is usually a highlight and this year was no exception. I’m not going to go through each in detail, but skate over the lot and focus on a few of the best.

Totem is pretty and sad, A Love Story is gorgeous but weird. Party by Daniel Barany is gorgeous and funny (see a theme here?). We go dancing through a progressively more debauched party. Barany’s Vimeo account is here, but sadly doesn’t have the actual film on it.

Eternal Hunting Grounds was astonishingly pretty and dead creepy (kids bury dead animals so that they go to their ‘eternal hunting grounds’ – or do they?) but overlong. Given the cumulative runtime of the previous three would fit inside the runtime of this one, this should really have done more to justify the time.

Ivan’s Need is absolutely fabulous, very funny and decidedly NSFW. The director’s Vimeo account has a (clean) teaser trailer but, once again, it doesn’t seem like you can get to the full film online.

I don’t really remember anything about The Empty. The animation is pretty but… it obviously didn’t make a huge impression on me. Far better was the astonishingly wonderful and funny The Bald Future. Trailer below:

Jonas and the Sea and Piano rounded out the collection in high style. The former is a beautiful and bizarre story of a man’s series of homemade submersible vehicles while the latter is just stunning. Utterly black comedy with tightropes, pianos and all sorts of mishaps. Trailer below:

Old Czech Legends

One of the recurring but seemingly unacknowledged strands of the Leeds International Film Festival is the presentation of old Czech films. We’ve seen loads of them over the years. Old Czech Legends is a quite beautiful piece of 50s stop motion animation, telling stories of the Czech peoples. It’s utterly gorgeous. The animals are clearly the highlight – we’re treated to bugs and butterflies, deer and squirrels, and some very impressive wild boar.

As might be expected, the stories have er… dated a little. The most wincing passage involves relieving the Czech people of the “shame” of being ruled by a woman (albeit an intelligent and skilled woman) by replacing her with a random farmer, as chosen by the magic white horse. Uh… Yeah.

But put that aside for now, because this really is a stunning watch. This does things with animation that make today’s CG enhanced fare look shabby. The camera moves through the woods, ducking between trees, crashing in for close-ups and panning back to whole scenes. It’s really fabulous stuff.

Drinks
Timothy Taylor‘s Boltmaker, a pleasantly classic beer to go with this old film. I always forget quite how much I enjoy this one. Probably one of my favourite easily drinkable, sensibly strong beers. A Sunday afternoon kind of a beer.

Psychonauts

With Psychonauts, the newly re-christened Animation day moved firmly away from its Japanese roots. Here, we find ourselves in a Basque produced, Spanish language (The language nerd in me was slightly disappointed it wasn’t in Basque) dystopian oddity. Here, animals of various shapes and sizes have established a society amongst the rubble and rubbish heaps of an unknown island. Mice, rabbits and dogs live peaceably together on the quiet island.

It’s frankly so bizarre I don’t know where to start. Should I mention the enthusiastic little clockwork alarm who scurries about the island – “BEEP BEEP”? Should I mention the fisherman who saves his wages from fishing and quite possibly drug dealing to look after his comatose mother who is possessed by an evil spider? Or maybe I should focus on birdboy, son on birdman, who is tortured by his bird-like demons and hides in the shadows of the island? Wherever I start, there’s no escaping the fact that this is utterly bonkers.

All of this would be pretty tiring though if it weren’t for the beating heart of the story, which sees several interlinked narratives of hope and loss spread out across the island. It’s full of sweet moments and sad moments – you very quickly forget that you’re watching a cartoon rabbit struggling with their love for the part-bird-part-boy sweetheart they may never see again.

I loved Psychonauts. From start to finish it was an absolute joy.

Drinks
Five Points Pale Ale again. Oddly, I only seem to drink this one alongside a film I enjoy. Definitely a good omen.

The Red Turtle

The Red Turtle is a gentle and touching film about er… life and stuff. And turtles. Who might be ladies. Or not.

It comes with the Studio Ghibli stamp of approval – their first non-Japanese production – and has many of the hallmarks of a Ghibli film, but it’s certainly not an imitation. Dialogue-free we follow an unnamed seafarer washed up on a desert island. His repeated attempts to escape mysteriously thwarted, we watch him make a home on the island and spend his life there.

It’s quite wonderful in that it’s fun and sad, and big and small all at once. I haven’t really tried to dig too hard into whether it all means something – and I don’t think I want to. It’s satisfyingly open to interpretation but stands on its own as well. I’d struggle to explain it to anyone, but I’d happily watch it again. Oh and the score was beautiful.

So… yeah. Life and stuff. With turtles. And pretty music.

Drinks
Pressure Drop‘s ENZ IPA. A strong one (~7%) from Tallboys beer market in Leeds. I think I’ve enjoyed every Pressure Drop beer I’ve had and this was great: really big flavours.

Belladonna of Sadness

I don’t even know where to begin with this one. Belladonna of Sadness is mid-70s piece of erotic psychedelia that tells a story that has loose connections to Joan of Arc. We have all the usual suspects – feudal lords, tax collectors, peasants and pages – as well as the (penis-shaped) Devil, village-wide orgies and the plague.

It’s a difficulte one to describe really. And hard to say whether I actually enjoyed it. The animation is gorgeous. Butterflies, flowers and Aubrey Beardsley-esque figures – all long slender limbs and luxurious hair – writhe and twist through the film, splashed everywhere with bright colours. And the soundtrack is fantastic (and available from the ever wonderful Finders Keepers records). But I think there was just too much of it. I really didn’t need 90 minutes of it to sort of get the point. A half hour does would probably have done just fine. It’s very much the product of an era of excess and indulgence – you can really feel that in the film – but perhaps having been reined in a little bit wouldn’t have gone amiss.

Drink Brew Dog‘s red ale 5AM Saint. It’s long been a favourite of mine – definitely the best of the Brewdog range for a balance of big tasting without being ridiculously strong. They tried to drop the ‘Saint’ a few years ago, making it the much plainer ‘5AM Red Ale’, but luckily they saw the error of their ways and named it back again. Tasty beer.

Trailer here: