Nashville Film Festival 2009: Animated Shorts, Part 1
(6 min., USA; IMDB)
Two-time Oscar nominee Bill Plympton is something of a revered figure among filmgoers who track animation more avidly than I do; though I have seen stills and excerpts of his work in other places, Hot Dog is the first of his films that I have seen in full, and it's a pip. Neither the plot nor the low-contrast colored-pencil style of Hot Dog (a second sequel of sorts to the Academy-nominated Guard Dog and its follow-up Guide Dog) necessarily pushes the medium forward, but the energetic, farcical, agreeably perverse storytelling is a hoot. The star dog's maniacal yearning to be a fireman is nutty enough, even before he's saving a woman from a burning building by startling the shit out of her, at which point she and the crew of human firemen on the ground bounce into some saucily lurid fun. Only the dog sees that the flames haven't stopped, they've just migrated to new spots. Funny and unpretentious, with a spry twist followed by an even better one; wicked enough for adult enjoyment but accessible to viewers of all ages.
Hungu - watch it in full!
(9 min., Canada; IMDB)
I was completely enchanted by Hungu's distinctive, sand-derived look and its intoxicating sound, furnished primarily by the Brazilian Berimbau, a stringed instrument that makes low, twangy sounds which here amplify and embellish an intriguing, elemental story about traveling African hunters who jettison a straggling young mother from her party. This woman undergoes an astonishing transformation after her abandonment by her cohort, at which point Hungu's engrossingly direct fascination with sounds, forms, and human relationships are fused even more tightly than before. Along the way, animator Nicolas Brault evinces something like the American artist Kara Walker's interest in denaturalized outlines and stark silhouettes, although the closer we get to Brault's people and artifacts and wildebeests, the more ornately designed and textured they turn out to be. Extra points for the pale translucency of water and the motile magic of the fish. A real highlight for me, across all of the programs. (Learn more here about capoeira, the Afro-Brazilian amalgam of dance, music, and martial arts that inspired Hungu.)
Stay tuned for more write-ups on animation by Don Hertzfeldt, PES, Joaquin Baldwin, and Academy Award nominees Adam Foulkes & Alan Smith.