Friday, October 16, 2009

Ottawa Animation Festival Part 2

Another day, another crop of AniFest reviews! Got to see four screenings today, which is one more than I'd planned, so that's a bonus. Here's the rundown:

$9.99 The first feature I've seen during the festival (out of three planned), $9.99 is an Isreali film about a group of characters all inhabiting the same apartment with interrelated lives to one degree or another, although sometimes the relationship is coincidental at best. An entertaining film, certainly, and the characters have a lot of honesty to them, but I have to question the fantastic elements of the film. The worthless angel that appears to the old, lonely man is good, but what happens to the repo guy is totally jarring, and the hallucinatory drinking buddies of the guy whose fiancee dumped him really doesn't work as well as it should. But despite that, the character development of most of the characters works well, and there's some sense of cohesion. Worth a look, but probably not going too far out of your way for.

International Competition 2 One of the festival's competition screenings, this was a crop of short films from a number of countries, primarily European. There was a very slick French film named French Roast which was quite clever, and a new Pixar short, but honestly what stole the show was L'homme à la Gordini, a wickedly funny short about a society where everyone is pantless and wears only orange tops (enforced by law!), subverted by a man and wife team wearing blue, and a mysterious caped man waging his own subversive war against the customs. So 70's in style it HURTS!, the film is infectious and funny. This one is definitely worth going out of your way to find.

A Stan VanDerBeek Retrospective This was probably the most jarring moment of the festival for me, going from the slick, polished and professional entries in the International Competition to a collection of extremely experimental short films made by the man who later went on to create the vids for Paul Simon's "Boy In the Bubble" and Michael Jackson's "Leave Me Alone". Dissonant, chaotic and confusing, but full of energy and not without humour, VanDerBeek pushed the envelope of collage filmmaking, and even worked with the early pioneers of CG. Not an easy screening to sit through though, and a number of the audience left partway through. I'd say it was worth it, but I grew up watching Norman McLaren stuff, so it's not so new to me. But seriously, what's with all experimental films using this ear-wrenching avant garde dissonant crap for a soundtrack? What, it's not experimental enough if you don't have clashing noise where music should be? I don't get it. At least McLaren had the decency to use jazz.

Edison and Leo This was fun, and a good antidote for the heavy experimentation and dissonant soundtrack of the last screening. The first Canadian stop-motion feature, this is an iconoclastic and unquestionably Canadian story about an amoral inventor, his two sons, and the giant metal effigy of his late wife (his fault). Oh, and his son is charged with electicity (also his fault), and a tribe of female warriors have laid seige to his lab (his fault, yet again...there's a pattern forming here). The story is surprisingly unflinching at sex, violence, and emotion, which helps bring the very obvious models alive as characters. The writing is sharp and witty, the motivations of the characters is clear, and everything comes together in a nice, tidy, but not neat package. The real shame is the deaths of some characters who really don't deserve it, but omlettes and eggs, you know. Honestly, thinking about it after it would have come off as too much of a sell-out if they hadn't, so it's just as well. Another one to look for, I recommend it.

That's it for tonight. I've got five screenings scheduled for tomorrow, hopefully I can get in to all of them. I'll report back after with my impressions.

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