Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 16, No.4, 2017
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Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Bernard Dubé
  Contributing Editors
David Solway
Louis René Beres
Nick Catalano
Lynda Renée
Gary Olson
Jordan Adler
Howard Richler
Oslavi Linares
Ivan Nonveiller
Andrew Hlavacek
Daniel Charchuk
  Music Editor
Serge Gamache
  Arts Editor
Lydia Schrufer
Mady Bourdage
Chantal Levesque
Denis Beaumont
Marcel Dubois
Emanuel Pordes
  Film Reviews
  Bowling for Columbine
Shanghai Ghetto
Talk to Her
City of God
Magdalene Sisters
Dirty Pretty Things
Barbarian Invasions
Fog of War
Blind Shaft
The Corporation
Station Agent
The Agronomist
Maria Full of Grace
Man Without a Past
In This World
Buffalo Boy
Shake Hands with the Devil
Born into Brothels
The Edukators
Big Sugar
A Long Walk
An Inconvenient Truth
Sisters In Law
Send a Bullet
Banking on Heaven
Chinese Botanist's Daugher
Ben X
La Zona
The Legacy
Irina Palm
4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days
Poor Boys Game
Finn's Girl
Leaving the Fold
The Mourning Forest
Beneath the Rooftops of Paris
Before Tomorrow
Paraiso Travel
Necessities of Life
For a Moment of Freedom
Blood River
By the Will of Genghis Kahn
The Concert
Weaving Girl
Into Eternity
When We Leave
Le Havre
Presumed Guilty
A Separation
Take This Waltz
Beyond The Walls
The Place Beyond the Pines
Da Sweet Blood of Jesus





So far, A & O film reviewer Oslavi Linares has seen the following films. Here are his ratings, always out of 4, reserving 2.5 or more for a noteworthy film, 3.5 for an exceptional film, 4 for a classic.


4.0 -- THE BREADWINNER, Nora Twomey
[reviewed by Oslavi Linares] Furnishing its tale of women's oppression and self-empowerment with erudite research and a dual story structure, The Breadwinner also captivates with its immersive visual design and emotionally charged plot. Based on the award-winner novel by Canadian Deborah Ellis and directed by veteran animator Nora Twomey (co-director of The Secret of Kells (2009)) from Irish studio Cartoon Saloon, the film tells the fictional story of Parvana (voiced by Saara Chaudry), a young Afghan girl living under the Taliban regime. After her father's arbitrary arrest, she cross- dresses as a boy to provide for her family. As war looms in the horizon, Parvana tries to rescue her father from jail, while she also narrates the tale of a boy seeking to recover his village's seeds from the Elephant King. The film parallels Parvana's tale with her own life and thus highlights her emotions and struggle. The fable and other stories within the film employ a different 2D digital cut-out animation, with more colourful geometrical shapes, and elaborate decorative designs; this contrasts with the stylized but realistic 2D cel-animation of Parvana's reality. Kabul, recreated from oral testimonies and historical research, is painterly portrayed with a palette of browns, greys, and greens and draped with an ever-present dust. The city's locales tell stories on their own, from the market place, to a soviet tank graveyard, from brick works to the prison. At times the inner story telling over-exposes Afghanistan's history to the audience, but in general the film concentrates on its own historical period and point of view of the city. Much of its exposition comes from the mouth its characters but this adds weight to each of them and endears one with Parvana's moments of happiness and peril.
The adaptation of
The Breadwinner was a collaborative effort between Cartoon Saloon (Ireland), Toronto based Aircraft Pictures, and Melusine Productions from Luxembourg. It was also co-produced with actress Angelina Jolie. Moreover, the film relied on the novel's extensive research (Ellis wrote it inspired by Afghan refugee interviews) and consultations with Afghan immigrants. Many Afghan-Canadians also provided the film's voice acting.
As a film,
The Breadwinner recalls animated features like Persepolis (Satrapi, Paronnaud 2007), but also Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth (2006), for its mix of war and childhood fantasy. The Breadwinner is one of the first (animated) features to showcase Afghan culture to the world; its tale of female empowerment offers a timely and much needed alternative voice to the region's anti-feminist and xenophobic discourse.

3.6-- NIGHT IS SHORT, WALK ON GIRL, Dir. Masaaki Yuasa
[reviewed by Oslavi Linares] Enter the nightlife of summer Kyoto, a place of endless bars, legendary substances, secret societies, used book fairs, and other festivities cruised by the happy-go-lucky heroine known as “the girl with black hair” and her relentless but wacky suitor, Sempai. As Sempai trails behind her through the night, seeking the courage or luck to declare his love, they encounter a wide cast of colourful characters and crowds: the mischievous god of used books, a villainous but solitary loan shark, a romantic student vowing to never change his underpants for love, an evasive guerrilla theatre troupe, a crossdressing and fascistic student director, a single dad-erotic print collector, a dubious second-hand samurai vendor, old and young drunks, and many more socialites from all walks of life all comically portrayed from frame one. With a character design that is both realist and iconic, Night is Short, Walk on Girl is funny whether still or moving, morphing according to the situation and status of the cast. A single still character pose is enough evoke laughter, as so do the absurd vehicles or rubbery constructions. Kyoto’s design is equally evocative, drawn with 2D patterns and textures that really play with the flatness and depth typical of Japanese anime. This flatness pays tribute to older media like woodblock prints, picture scrolls, the animation of UPA and evokes previous Yuasa works like Mindgame and the series Tatami Galaxy. This last was written by the same author, Makoto Ueda, but Yuasa’s adaptation of Night is Short not only gives life to the comedic romance but fuses it with Ueda’s idiosyncratic approach to animation, adding music, additional plots, and a flexible use of animated space that is not shy to simplify or exaggerate when the situation calls for. A labyrinthic but well paced story, Night is Short, Walk on Girl’s comfortably strings its chapters without playing favourites, building on previous narrative developments, and using its very stylized graphic quality to narrate. Unsurprisingly, it garnered Best Feature award at this year’s Ottawa International Animation Film Festival.

3.3 -- TORREY PINES, Dir. Clyde Petersen
[reviewed by Oslavi Linares] Winner of the Honorable Mention in this year's 2017 OIAFF feature competition, Torrey Pines shows, not tells, an indie road movie and a tale of a queer childhood, rendered through handmade cut-outs and zero dialogue. The plot is debutant director Clyde Petersen's childhood during 1993, growing up as a non-conforming girl in California, dealing with gender issues and her mom's mental instability. Initially raised by his smoker grandmother, Petersen and his mom eventually embark on a cross country road-trip to New York. Through his passenger seat, nearby TVs, or Petersen's imagination the viewer encounters different elements of Americana and pop culture, from Star Trek to Whitney Houston, from grunge rock to redneck confederates. But while the film's discourses on gender, family problems, and US culture are of interest by themselves; the story's construction grants it much of its uniqueness.
Torrey Pines uses almost no spoken dialogue (the exception a closing scene) to convey its characters' conversations: pantomime, facial expressions, guttural sounds and animated picture bubbles do most of the work. Its narrative also owes to its particular style: cut out stop-motion animation blending two-dimensional and three-dimensional puppets, and which evoke children's illustrations by their geometrical simplicity. According to Petersen, both aspects, lack of dialogue and cut outs, were because, "I just wanted to make a film that could go around the world without a language barrier and that many people could see it that didn't have to speak English . . . I like quiet films, to use my eyes to understand what's going on without being told."
Inspired by filmmaker John Waters, this coming-of-age tale was the labour of three years, the director mentioned that the film was made by, ". . . just two animators (myself I did most of it), then Chris Looney would help me when I got tired. And then we had seven interns . . . each worked one day a week . . . building puppets and sets and designing stuff. Me and Chris did all the animation . . . It took a year and a half of animation [out of three years], everyday."
To animate his childhood, Petersen relied on a single Canon Rebel camera shooting a multiplane composition and the software Dragonframe. The film's budget was around 30,000 US dollars, much of which was crowdsourced through the Kickstarter website. "I just launched a Kickstarter [campaign] and did it over a month . . . people could pay 25 dollars to be in the movie and that Whitney Houston scene is all patrons. They sent in photos and we made them puppets. So, everyone in the movie supported the film."
The resulting feature was not only indie in style and production but also in distribution. Rather than waiting for the festival season,
Torrey Pines' release resembles its own road-trip or that of Petersen's band. "We premiered last October with a live score, with a choir and rock-band playing all the music, in Seattle. And then we went on a whole north American tour, 60 shows, kind of punk rock style, DIY, houses museums, art galleries. Just went for it, because we didn't want to wait for a film festival to pick it up . . . Why wait, just worked three years on it, just fucking go. We are all independent musicians . . . "
"And now it's in film festivals, so it's a year later, we went on a European tour also and now it's been getting picked up, by film festivals. So, I'm so glad we didn't wait because it would have sat there for a year."
"The next place it's going is Oslo and Copenhagen . . .and then it will be at Cucalorus Film Festival in North Carolina . . . I would love to get some distribution for it, [but] can't really control that either, just distributing myself until something happens."
As for the film's ending, Petersen says that, "There's a lot of questions I left unanswered but I felt good. I wanted it to be mysterious and weird."

3.0 -- MY DOG'S JINJIN AND AKIDA, Dir. Jong-duck Cho
[reviewed by Oslavi Linares] If one asks what My Dog's Jinjin and Akida is about, one might as well ask what is being a child about? Although its characters are drawn with soft lines, gentle warm colours, and friendly round shapes the film's plot is simple but serious in tone, and the animation works along and in contrast to it. Far from a children's story it is a realistic depiction of a dysfunctional family through the still innocent eyes of the filmmaker's infant alter-ego. Jaeyoung is the son of a drunk fish seller and a devote catholic mother, he shares his household with his sister Jeong-min and their dogs Jinjin and Akida. While his father drunkenness strains the family, the situation worsens because of the man's favouritism of the dogs over his children. Jealous of Jinjin and Akida and weary of their aggressiveness, Jaeyoung sets them loose, only to find his troubles multiplied. In an interview with Arts and Opinion, director Jong-duck Cho's spoke more about his feature debut, which came after five years of personal work, two years writing the script and three producing the feature.

ARTS & OPINION: What inspired the film?

JONG-DUCK CHO: I wanted to make a story about family but was also inspired by the childhood film
My Life as a Dog (1985) and What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1993) from Swedish filmmaker Lasse Hallström.

A & O: Why did you choose to deal with family problems in the film? JONG-DUCK CHO: Family problems are important for me as a topic, and the one I know best. I also wanted to make an animation which was realistic.

A & O: Why did you choose the film's graphic style, its visual aspect?

JONG-DUCK CHO: I love drawn and painted images, and animation with a painterly quality. But also, I wanted to bring the nostalgia, the tmosphere at the time [the 80s] and making this kind of drawing and animation is the best for that.

A & O: Was it difficult to fund this feature?

JONG-DUCK CHO: During the film's production I got funding from the Korean Academy of Film Arts, which offered money for the production costs, but not during the writing, when I worked a part-time job. A & O: Where else has My Dogs Jinjin and Akida been shown?

JONG-DUCK CHO: At Zagreb (World Festival of Animated Film Zagreb, Croatia) and Bucheon (Bucheon International Animation Festival n South Korea).

A & O: Any future projects?

JONG-DUCK CHO: I am working as a storyboard artist in an animation company. Though I enjoy traditional methods I am learning modern techniques like CGI 3D. I am looking for any other inspiration and stories to make, if I find the right one I'll make it into a film.


3.0 -- I'LL JUST LIVE IN BANDO, Yongsun Lee
[reviewed by Oslavi Linares] With its cartoonish but everyday aesthetic, I'll Just Live in Bando offers a contemporary satire on Korean (and arguably modern) society. The premise is a simple one: frustrated with his job as a part-time acting instructor, Jun-Koo has to decide between an offer as a permanent professor or try his luck auditioning for a promising role. His dilemma exacerbates due to his son's accident, his wife's impulsive purchase of an apartment, his daughter's future education, an unreliable benefactor, and his involvement in a sexual scandal. Jun-Koo's desperate attempts are rendered through simple character designs that make strategic use of lines to emphasize the character's shifting moods, as well as other over-dramatic tropes such as teary eyes, soap-opera music, and camera movements. Indeed, the camera-like framing infuse the at-times slow animation with a live-action realism. This mix of animation and video techniques also applies to the appearance of actual cell-phone screens, devices which in themselves constantly disrupt the course of the plot, much like in real life. Indeed, for all it's over-the-top jokes, director Youngsun Lee's debut feature film is partly autobiographical.
Lee himself is a part-time instructor and according to him Jun-Koo's situation mirrors that of many part-time academics paid approximately a fifth of what their permanent colleagues earn. Even through part of the making of I'll Just Live in Bando Lee was working part-time; however, the director got some funding for the production of the film and he declares that, "for this kind of film the first support we can consider about is national [public funding] support, but in this case it was not a support for long feature film but . . . for short films because it's an animation for adults and this is not a very famous or popular genre in Korea . . . So it was difficult to get more support." Nevertheless, the director mentions that thanks to his job as a teacher he, "was helped by his students and he could use the computers and materials from the university."
As for inspiration, Lee favours Japanese and US animation comedy and stories about families. "[He] already had some round and cute style for his characters but [also] wanted to make some kind of Korean version of the Simpsons and sit-coms . . . [He] was specially inspired by the American comedian Louis C. K." Visually, "for the design of the characters he referred to the Japanese cartoon [Hôhokekyo tonari no] Yamada-kun (Isao Takahata, 1999), which also has round and cute characters and a family story."
Despite his character's misfortunes, the film offers a moral since, "In Korea, to make a living we have to abandon so many things in society and that is a sad point, and this film shows that in any case, the dream can work somehow."

3.0-- LU OVER THE WALL, Dir. Masaaki Yuasa
[reviewed by Oslavi Linares] Lu Over the Wall offers another example of Masaaki Yuasa’s crazy animation style: cartoonish or stylized line drawn characters, an animated camera that dives through dimensional imagery, and flat textures with painterly qualities. These techniques are used comically to tell the story of Kai, a teenager in the small fishing town of Hinashi, where career prospects are limited to fishing or tourism, and where legends of mermaids haunt the waters. Kai’s apathic life is disrupted when his music attracts Lu, the mermaid. Together they join his friends’ rock band and accidentally spark national fascination and a clash between land and sea. An energetic film full of fantastic creatures, absurd events, and youth romance, this coming of age comedy nevertheless lacks much in its plot. The story reaches its climax without much other than a collection of jokes and an increase in mermaid powers. Kai’s own change from an introvert to a content young man is somewhat irrelevant to his relationship with Lu. Nothing is really at risk, and the return to the status quo leaves a taste of poignancy after all the dancing and singing has taken place. Nevertheless, the film’s animation is noteworthy and a must-watch for Yuasa fans, as it retains his animation style. It recalls Studio Ghibli’s Ponyo (2008) and My Neighbor Totoro (1988), and falls more in line with their type of younger audiences, unlike the wittier more adult tone of Yuasa’s Night is Short, Walk on Girl also screened at this year’s OIAFF.



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