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SF Film Fest’s Fantastic Animation
by Karl Cohen
The beautifully drawn 'Little Vulvah and Her Clitoral Awareness', by the Dane, Sara Koppel suggests the illustrations of Aubrey Beardsley. photo: courtesy S. Koppel
DON'T MISS THIS EXCEPTIONAL PROGRAM
of adult animated shorts presented by the SF International Film Festival, see
Although this show goes under the boring name “Shorts 3 – Animation,” boring it isn’t. An excellent selection of cutting edge works, each is outstanding in a different way. But be warned, this is not a nice gentle family show for kids, but a program of fascinating, intelligent, prize-winning works of art for adults.
The program will open with “Cosmic Flower Unfolding,” an exquisite and visionary film by Ben Ridgway, a Bay Area computer animator who teaches at SF State. There is a lot to ooh and ah over in these two breathtaking minutes.
Then it is on to Bill Plympton’s “Drunker Than a Skunk” that combines a bold, raw soundtrack with his outrageous cartoony drawings. The art illustrate a most unusual work of poetry recited by the author Walt Curtis. Curtis arrived at the recording session with a half empty jug of wine that he had just purchased, Bill told me. It is a very realistic soundtrack.
From the National Film Board of Canada comes “Subconscious Password” by Chris Landreth. He won an Oscar for “Ryan,” and his newest film takes us on a bizarre ride though the subject’s subconscious mind as he tries to remember somebody’s name at a social engagement. Along the way he meets a host of celebrities from Yoko Ono to H. P. Lovecraft and Salvador Dali. You will be amazed by this strange comedy.
The psychedelic stylings of SF's own Ben Ridgeway. photo: courtesy B. Ridgeway
An even bolder film from the Canadian Film Board is “Gloria Victoria” by Theodore Ushev. This is a powerful and dense experimental work set to Dmitri Shostakovich's “Leningrad Symphony.” The symphonic score builds to a rousing climax just as Ravel’s “Bolero” does but here the abstract music and visuals suggest the growth and struggle of a new nation in times of war and peace.
In stark contrast to the powerful Russian experience comes “Little Vulvah and Her Clitoral Awareness” by Sara Koppel from Denmark. Beautifully drawn, with an exquisite use of line and a refined artistic sensibility, it is reminiscent of the erotic illustrations of Aubrey Beardsley. It includes unexpected surprises.
Continuing in this vein is “Oh Willy”. By Emma de Swaef and Marc James from Belgium, the story begins with Willie going to see his mother at a nudist colony. This stop-motion puppet film has won several audience awards and grand prizes at European festivals.
Guilherme Marcondes’ “The Master’s Voice: Caveirao” is a surreal adventure in a mysterious town where spirits of the night come out for a carnival-like boogie until… well, check it out. The cast includes highly imaginative looking ghosts and ghouls plus an inquisitive mosquito and a not quite human policeman.
Scene from “Drunker Than a Skunk” by Bill Plympton which blends bold sounds with outrageous drawings. photo: courtesy B. Plympton
“The Missing Scarf” by Eoin Duffy from Ireland and narrated by George Takei, has won over a dozen top awards at festivals in the US and Europe. It was also one of ten finalists for the Academy Award for Best Animated Short this year (so were “Gloria Victoria” and “Subconscious Password”). It begins as a cute film for kids, but the innocent squirrel ends up in a black comedy that explores some of life's major fears. This is certainly not a kid friendly film.
A most unexpected subject for a contemporary film is Lyndon B. Johnson, the former president of the USA. In “The Rancher” by Kelly Sears, she imagines his dreams, nightmares of his world coming apart. Kelly is the grand lady of American experimental film.
Finally this 21st Century animated program for adults includes two tiny films by Max Hattler from England. “Stop the Show” (aka “WAR”) was made for Amnesty International. It has a big message while “Very Large Increase in the Size, Amount, or Importance of Something Over a Very Short Period of Time” is a one-minute trip to infinity and beyond.
“Shorts 3: Animation” will be shown Saturday, April 26, 9:45 PM and Monday, May 5, 9:00 PM at the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, 76 minutes, $13 members / $15 general.
The festival is also presenting a family-oriented program of animated shorts. “Shorts 6: Family Films” includes several works that are bound to please including two new films from Moonbot Studios. They are best known for their Academy Award wining short “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.”
Oscar-winner Chris Landreth's newest film, “Subconscious Password', takes us on a wild ride from Yoko Ono to H. P. Lovecraft. photo: courtesy C. Landreth
One is “Silent, A Short Film” that stars the delightful Buster Keaton-like man who was also the star of the “The Fantastic Flying Books.” The short premiered at The Oscars Scientific and Technical Awards ceremony held in LA in February. The second Moonbot film is “The Numberlys,” a William Joyce story that takes place in a world full of numbers, but without any letters.
The other films in the program that I’ve seen are also crowd pleasers. “Soup of the Day” is a fun music video by Lynn Smith (NFB of Canada) and “My Mom Is an Airplane” by Yulia Aronova from Russia is a charming kids fantasy. Ron Diamond (Acme Filmworks and AWN.com) saw Yulia’s work at a festival in Europe and is now distributing her charming work with a new English soundtrack.
The two films in the program that I haven’t seen are “The Dam Keeper” and “I want my hat back.” The latter is based on Jon Klassen’s classic children’s book. “Shorts 6: Family Films” will be shown Saturday, April 26, 10:15 AM at the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, $13 members / $15 general, ages 6 and up.
Karl Cohen is an animator, educator and director of the local chapter of the International Animation Society and can be reached
Posted on Apr 24, 2014 - 01:33 PM