Leeds Film Festival 2010: Day 6

World Animation Shorts 1

A nice round number of animated shorts from around the world gives me the first of this years' short films.

Crocodile (Est) - The tragicomic tale of an opera singer who loses his place on stage thanks to an unfortunate trouser malfunction. Reduced to dressing up as a crocodile and entertaining ungrateful children down the local shopping centre, his frustration and helplessness causes a downward spiral, only to be rescued by the affections of a beautiful woman, but - why is she always buying bags of meat? An unusual and slightly grotesque art style and colour palette, Crocodile is entertaining and amusing, but loses out with a weak ending. 7/10

Old Fangs (Irl) - A sad tale, told with stylised humanoid animals to soften the blow a little. A young fox-type creature returns to the home of his large and beastly father, bringing a couple of his friends along for courage. The reunion does not go well, but it is clear that both sides come away affected. I loved the way that the eyes of the main character did all the work of expressing himself. 7/10

Pigeon Impossible (US) - With high production values, this has the shine and polish of an early Pixar film and could easily be mistaken for one of its shorts. Walter Beckett, a character we might end up seeing more of, is a secret agent in possession of the newest super spy briefcase, packed with lasers and guns and nuclear devices. He didn't account in his big plans of a curious pigeon who manages to get inside it, and is clearly a quick learner. A promising new talent that will mature into full-blown cinema quite soon I would bet. 8/10

Barking Island (Fra) - An account of the real-life situation that took place in Constantinople at the start of the 20th Century, using a mix of intricate location art and half-complete watercolour paintings. Reacting to a massive surge in the stray dog population, the people in charge call on the advice of exterminators; their proposed solutions foretelling events some 30 years later. In the end, 40,000 of the poor dogs who were rounded up suffered a more gruesome fate. 7.5/10

There Are Spirits (Ita) - Using a very striking black and white palette, a man describes a dream into the past, where he visits the laboratory of his father, and the bedroom of his mother, now long since gone, but their spirits remain in the form of beautiful fibrous whisps in the air that barely hold the form of their original owners. It was nice, but it didn't go very far. 6.5/10

The Boy who wanted to be a Lion (UK) - A beautifully crafted but dark tale of a deaf child named Max, whose closed and insular world is given focus when he visits the local zoo and becomes intrigues with the majestic lion on display, it's roars doing nothing to put him off. Nagging mum to make him a costume, he fills his life with the obsession, to tragic consequences after his parents scold him. 8/10

The Lipsett Diaries (Can) - Arthur Lipsett committed suicide in 1986. Credited as an influential figure in experimental cinema, this animation attempts to imagine his mental state prior to taking his life. A messy splatter of photographs and film covered with paint and scribble, that fires itself at your retinas for several relentless minutes, over which the narrator, playing the part of Lipsett, calmly recounts his unhappy life.

Umbra (Can) - Using a simple line style, Umbra is more than it initially seems, and will be most appreciated by mathematicians and/or scientists I think. A small human-like being lands on a planet and is soon surrounded by small creatures who pursue his shadow. 7.5/10

The Astronomers' Sun (UK) - With connections to Channel 4, this lovely short film employs the stop-motion animation techniques of old to make something you might have seen on the channel 20 years ago. I wouldn't be at all surprised if we are treated to it on the telly at Christmas, because it has that sort of magic feel to it. A man revisits his fathers' laboratory with his clockwork bear, many years after seeing him disappear into one of his experiments. As the big day draws near, he attempts to go to his fathers side. 8.5/10

Love and Theft (Ger) - It took a moment to get to full speed, but this insane psychedelic trip has to be seen to be truly appreciated (so get clicky below).

To recreate something like it in your mind, all you need to do is get completely relaxed, almost meditative. Let your imagination choose at random and display and image of something, anything, in your head. Then without trying to direct your mind at all, let your idling brain morph the image into something else, and again, and again, driven only by your subconscious, and once your mind gets the hang of it you'll have something close to this film.

Anyway, that's what Love and Theft is, a hallucinatory vision of strange and familiar faces staring out of the screen at you, constantly morphing in cyclic yet evolving ways, to a thumping techno beat. Many faces you might recognise, such as Betty Boop, Mickey Mouse and Hello Kitty, but there are some obscure references in there too, such as Ryan Larkin in his short film guise. It's fun just to see how many you can spot, but it's a hell of a ride anyway. 8.5/10

The Angel
(Nor) (wiki)

My only full-length film of the night, a warning about the corrosive effect that an unstable family has on the development and subsequently adult lives of the children. Lea's father died from cancer when she was young, the first in a long list of experiences and lessons that change her outlook on life and her subsequent life choices. A loving and gentle father was replaced with Ole, an initially pleasant but increasingly abusive man who was once engaged to Lea's mother, Madeline, some time ago. When Ole's requests for memento's of Lea's father to be removed from the house are ignored, his patience degenerates, and everyone suffers. Even when the steadying influence of childhood sweetheart Henrik appears, drug use has set in and Lea can see no way of escaping it, her ageing mother looking on helplessly. Through it all, Lea clings onto the idea of an angel delivering her from these problems, some time, and the imagery shows up several times in the film in obvious and sometimes more subtle ways.

Although much of The Angel deals with unhappy subject matter, there is always a thread of hope and beauty running through it, and as with most of these sorts of films concentrating on the destruction of a person, it also presents a future for Lea and her family that has a chance at happiness. A worthwhile film full of emotions. 7.5/10

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