Let me preface this by saying that Dutch trains suck. Or, to be more specific, the trains themselves do not suck – they are actually quite comfortable. But the system through which they are meant to be on time, and how one is supposed to find out about pre-planned engineering works, or which alternate routes to use, or which platform the trains are supposed to leave from, and, last but not least, the ticket-buying system, suck.
Moving on. I was an hour late to my first Klik! Amsterdam Animation Festival event yesterday (see above) which was a Q&A with many, if not all, of the visiting filmmakers who had a short in the festival. I was really glad to see the festival was doing this, because I noticed that after the actual shorts programs they would acknowledge the presence of any directors in the room, but not do a Q&A. And this event consisted of one moderator, who would invite up to the table 3-5 filmmakers at a time and ask them questions for about 10-15 mins. This format was quite promising – so often audiences are too shy to ask questions right after the screenings, or they are eager to move on to the next thing. This was a dedicated hour and a half just for questions
Unfortunately they arranged for the event to take place at the top of the big EYE interior staircase, right next to a different group that were doing an animation workshop. Even though they were using microphones you could barely hear anything. Also, when the directors sat down, a monitor behind them showed the name and still of their film, but the images were quite small and hard to see. It would have been helpful if the moderator had asked the directors to remind the audience what their film was about, which techniques were used, and in which shorts program it had screened.
I raced to catch the screening of the fan-recut recobbled version of The Thief and the Cobbler, Richard William’s unfinished masterpiece. I had seen the documentary about this film, Persistence of Vision, back in Seattle and it blew my mind. The film was pretty impressive. It definitely suffered from some pacing and story flaws, but who knows if those would have been fixed or less obvious in the final version? As it was the film definitely lagged in the middle, when the Thief and the sultan’s daughter go on a quest to find a witch. But some of the animation sequences were truly mind blowing – the camera moves, the change and use of perspective, the color, and the humor! I felt it was a bit absurd, like Asterix and Obelix or Monty Python. And it was very interesting to see the sections that were unfinished – pencil tests, storyboards – almost more interesting than if the film had been complete. Watch the trailer of Persistence of Vision below to get a sense for the film:
I caught the Animated Shorts 3 program, and I’m sad to say I gave 3s out of 5s to almost all of them. None of them stood out, except for The Event by Julia Pott, which I had already seen due to Julia’s involvement with Playgrounds Festival last week.
On Thursday I was at Klik with my classmates for two programs. In Animated Shorts 1 there was a French short film called Braise by Hugo Frassetto made with sand that blew me away. The sand work was incredible and I’m pretty sure was combined with motion graphics camera moves for some great movement. Unfortunately I felt the film was under served by the choice to include a quite graphic sex scene at the end. The first 5 minutes of the film were so suggestive and sexy on their own, they didn’t need anything else. Watch the trailer below:
A British short film called They Both Explode by Matthew Stephenson I had already seen at StopTrik in Poland. This is a silhouette cut-out film, but used with fabrics to create moody backgrounds. It has a bit of a dark quality to it, as a stork eats a frog’s eye at the beginning and it only gets weirder. Watch the trailer below:
I didn’t manage to catch the Animated Shorts 2 program at any time, but I had already seen Corrie Francis Parks‘ beautiful A Tangled Tale, and now that’s it online in full, you can too! Sand mixed with After Effects to great effect:
Another short that looks cool in that program is A Girl Named Elastika by Guillaume Blanchet, all made with push pins, elastic bands and a corkboard. Watch the trailer here:
On Thursday we also caught the Student Shorts 2 program. Rabbit and Deer by Peter Vacz, which I already reported on from my trip to StopTrik, played, and was again mind blowing. There was also a really nice Polish short called Luke and Lotta, by Renata Gasiorowska. It’s the story of a cone and a pear going on their first date – full of awkwardness, hope, and despair. My type of humour. You can watch the whole 8 minute film online here: http://www.cinely.com/videos/Xq84vF/
On Saturday I then caught the presentation by Ryan Honey, Executive Creative Director of NYC and LA based studio Buck. He gave a little history of how the studio was founded, and how they built up their resume to be one of the leading and most innovative production companies. They do amazing work, and he showed a lot of examples. By the end of the presentation we realized that most of the pieces he chose to show were the studio’s passion projects – things they do for free or for little money to give their creatives a chance to try new things and do what they want. Ryan then clarified that their passion projects make up maybe 5% of their total commissions. So that was a little dispiriting, but makes me admire people like Ryan even more, who can work so hard on commercial projects, to provide their creatives an opportunity to make work like this:
And almost better are the outtakes:
Love this one:
And this one will break your heart:
I then caught the East Meets West program, a curated collection of shorts from the Cartoon modern era from the US and Eastern Europe. The contrast was interesting, but the only film that stood out to me was The Tender Game by John Hubley, that I hadn’t seen before. It seems to have been made with cel animation, but to me it looks more like paint on glass in spirit:
And finally, I caught the feature The Congress by Ari Folman. There could entire posts written on this film alone, so it’s hard to know what to say here. I’ll say I enjoyed it, and the film definitely gives the best reason I have seen to switch from live action to animation. In this story Robin Wright plays an aging actress who sells her virtual image, allowing the movie studio to make movies starring her, without her. But things get weirder when, twenty years later, she is invited to a special convention, for which everyone must snort a certain chemical and become animated. From here on the movie is mostly animated as Robin suffers from hallucinations and struggles to define what’s real. For the viewer as well, the story at this point becomes hard to figure out, and you are left wondering if there is a solution to the tangled web, or if you are supposed to cease looking one. Mulholland Drive vs. Inland Empire, if you will.
People who find that really frustrating will probably not like the film. But the animation and the live action scenes are beautiful to look at and excellently acted, and overall it’s a great ride (except for a quite sudden and graphic animated sex scene which made some audience members laugh out loud in shock). For more in depth reviews, here is a positive one from Indiewire and a not as positive one from Indiewire. Watch the trailer here: