Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles

While I was in Annecy this June, one of the films high on my watch-list was "Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles", a French and Spanish production.  However, because of my busy schedule, I sadly wasn't able to catch this animated feature film there. However, now that it's been released in New York, I went with Signe Baumane to go watch the film last night.

First off, the graphics are very nice, if a little understated.  There's a very simple and monochromatic color palette, and limited detail that actually looks very beautiful.  But the main problem for me was the story.  Essentially, it's about Luis Buñuel's trip to the poorest village in Spain to make a documentary.  The problem was that there was no big conflict, or any urgency to push the plot forward.  It was very matter-of-fact, day-to-day sort of storytelling.  And at the end, we find out the producer was in fact an anarchist, and was killed by Franco's soldiers - now, there's a story for you.  Why didn't they put THAT in?

The other problem is that the film is supposedly about one of the greatest surrealist filmmakers, and the big poster promoting the film is a wonderful image influenced by a Dali painting.  So, I expected lots of cool surrealism and wild imagery - sorry, no luck.  There was only one other scene with brief surrealism - what a dud.

Yet, it's still a fine film to watch, because the animation is done well and the tale about Buñuel's early years is a true story.  I give it a C+

I've also included a cartoon for this week below.  Thanks for tuning in!

--Bill P.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Richard Williams, 1933-2019

While I was away on vacation in Portland last week, I got the news that acclaimed animator Richard Williams passed away - while he was most famous for being the animation director on "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?", he was also known for animating title sequences for 1960's title sequences for films like "Casino Royale", "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum", and two of the "Pink Panther" films starring Peter Sellers.  Then, of course, there was "The Thief and the Cobbler", a monumental piece of animation that he worked on for over twenty years, which got shelved in 1992 over fears of competition from the similarly-themed Disney film, "Aladdin".

I bumped into Richard for the first time at the 2015 Telluride Festival, where he was showing his new short film, "Prologue", essentially it was an excerpt from a planned feature version of "Lysistrata", the famous play by Aristophanes in which Greek women end a war by refusing to have sex with their warrior husbands.

We got to hang out in that wonderful mountaintop festival, and I felt like I was on top of the world.  Unfortunately, I didn't like "Prologue" so much - it was very stiff and looked rotoscoped, which was too bad because Richard was famous for his exaggeration and stylization.  Still, the film won a lot of awards, even an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Short.  So now that will have to stand on its own as his final film, and the rest of that feature will, like "The Thief and the Cobbler", never be completed.

with Richard Williams in Telluride, Sept. 2015
We encountered each other again at the Annecy Animation Festival in 2018.  He was a great artist and a great friend.  I'm so sorry such a witty, talented and energetic guy is gone.

with Richard Williams in Annecy, June 2018
--Bill P.