RABBIT (2006) (****)

27 05 2008

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Watch the Film!

This short is featured on the Animation Show Vol. 3 DVD.

Run Wrake’s devilish short is brilliantly twisted. Using a Dick-and-Jane-like illustration style, Wrake skewers contemporary morality. With words floating overhead, describing each object on screen, a young girl sees a rabbit in a field and thinks that it would make a wonderful muff. With the help of a mischievous little boy, she knocks out the rabbit, takes it home and cuts it open to discover a tiny devil idol inside. Turns out, the idol loves red plum jam and can turn insects into jewels, feathers and ink. The greedy little children then devise a murderous plan to bring swarms of bugs to the idol, so he will make jewels rain from the sky.

Using the well-known illustration style and contrasting it with the violence of the children is a stroke of genius. At the same moment, the action can be unsettling and hilarious. Warnings against excessive consumerism and greed are abundant. Wrake also makes a unique statement about the children’s desire for the jewels over the use of the feather and ink. What future do we have when the youngest generation would rather consume than create? Some have been baffled by exactly what the ending means. I find it the reasonable conclusion of excessive greed, but I also see it as a bit of “you get what you wish for.” Karma is a bitch sometimes when you live for getting something for nothing.

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CITY PARADISE (2004) (***1/2)

27 05 2008

Watch the Film!
Watch the Film!

This short is featured on the Animation Show Vol. 3 DVD.

Gaëlle Denis’ trippy animation/visual effects film creates a wonderful surreal style animating and manipulating human actors. A young Japanese woman moves to a new city where she doesn’t speak the language. Intimidated by her new home, she seeks out common bonds with people who share her love of diving, but ultimately jumps into a unexpected dream-like experience that opens her eyes to a whole new world.

The unique look of this short is what resonates with the viewer. Denis combines live-action with pixelization with 2D and 3D animation. The oft-kilter world that these combined techniques creates is both inviting and strange, capturing nicely the feel of moving to a new, big city. The characters waddle along on skinny legs through a muted color cityscape. The lead female pops off the screen in her red and pink clothing. She’s truly a fish out of water in this new environment. Denis shows her skills at designing a world that perfectly mirrors the mood of her characters. In addition, the film pokes fun at London life, especially the rain. Take notice to the words that the young woman learns. Featured in the film, if one is familiar with the unique vocal style of Joanna Newsom, you’ll get a bit of the film’s vibe.

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TCHAIKOVSKY (2007) (**1/2)

27 05 2008

Part documentary, part drama, this earnest BBC production tries very hard to legitimize the genius of 19th century composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky, while painting a portrait of his personal life and how it influenced his music. Split into two-parts for TV — “The Creation of Genius” and “Fortune and Tragedy” — the reenactments of Tchaikovsky’s life work better when they are freed of interruption from documentary host and composer Charles Hazlewood. Like its subject, the special seems to be looking for a voice.

Halzewood narrates the story of Tchaikovsky’s life as he travels to Russia to show us the influence the artist had on Russian culture, music, ballet and opera. We get moments from Tchaikovsky’s childhood when he is sent away to school and never recovers from the death of his mother when he was 14. Both Pyotr (Ed Stoppard, THE PIANIST) and his younger brother Modest (William Mannering, MASTER AND COMMANDER) were gay and frequented the homosexual underground in Russian and in the U.K. Tchaikovsky has an on-and-off affair with fellow music student Aleksey Apukhtin (Gyuri Sarossy, TV’s EASTENDERS) for years. As his fame grew, he became more worried about his homosexuality creating a scandal and set out to marry. After receiving a letter from admirer Antonina Milyukova (Alice Glover), he meets with the woman and subsequently marries her. Around the same time, he also meets Nadezdha von Meck (Lucy Briers, TV’s WIVES AND DAUGHTERS), a wealthy woman who would become his longtime benefactor and friend, even though she refused to meet him in person, always corresponding through letters. We follow Tchaikovsky’s turbulent marriage, his years as composer for hire and his death from cholera.

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