For this section, We’re heading to Spain to have a look at their animation this past decade. All things considered it had been a good decade for Spain. While the more popular CG outputs such as Planet 51, Tad The Lost Explorer which were box-office hits but performed poorly critically, it’s their indie, mature projects that – ahem, excuse my pun – has aged much better. Even if many of them are on the plain-looking side, they more than make up for the sheer power of their subject matters. Also I would add to this batch Chico & Rita (which I enjoyed during its release but I need to re-watch some day). These three films below are definitely adult-oriented, and for my money the more unique offerings in the animation scene. Let’s dig in:
Buñuel in the Labyrinth of Turtles (2018)
Luis Bunuel is a famous and controversial figure in cinema so a closer look at his in-the-making documentary already has its merits for fans who are interested in him, in his works or just in movies in general. Even without that quality though, Labyrinth if Turtles provides a depth outlook at the creativity itself and about friendship. The film’s uses of actual film footage from his films are neatly arranged, to the effects that they make all the animal cruelties that Bunuel implemented for his “documentary” more powerful. Bunuel is a provocateur but how far he should go to make movies that would cause a stir to the audience? Is killing livestocks worth it? My answer is resounding “no” but I can understand the other spectrum of the argument. But the heart of the film is about the journey of him filming the documentary, and the chemistry between him and his friend/ producer Ramon. For a director that is most well-known for his surrealist style, Labyrinth of Turtles uses dream sequences for some awe-inspiring moments, if a bit underused. The film captures Bunuel’s personality well, and it’s clear that this is just a small segment in his colorful life, but that’s exactly why it doesn’t feel overstuffed and we have a pretty good handle on Bunuel as a person. A pretty solid biography in my book.
(3 / 4)
Birdboy: The Forgotten Children (2015)
Birdboy, based on the graphic book of one of the directors, is a film that, despite its basic designs, isn’t meant for children at all. It is perhaps one of the darkest animations in recent years. Drug-abused, violence, depression, ugly degraded world and characters’ morals are all there. The movie’s bizzare worldview reminds me a whole lot of Goodnight Punpun, the comparison that I don’t take lightly. It starts off with the nuclear bomb that wipes out most of humanity for Christ sake. I originally found the backstory of Dinky is a bit lacking, as does her pre-attachment to Birdboy, but then I watched the original short Birdboy (released in 2011) and that short covers all that, so I’d wholeheartedly recommend you to watch the original short first as an accompanied piece to Forgotten Children. In the film, our cast members desperately want to get out of that decayed world, just to find themselves unable to escape it wherever they go and Birdboy using drugs in order to control his inner demon. Yeah, it’s bleak but Forgotten Children isn’t a total downer by any means. Its central relationship between Birdboy and the girl Dinky suggests a pure love that stems from this hole of darkness. In addition to the dark themes, the impressionist art styles (especially the use of colors) remain unique and certainly memorable. The creators said that they wanted to make a “modern fairy-tale”, and it is, with some raw and affecting emotions in the mix.
(3 / 4) (the best one out of the three)
And yet, the most mature animated film in this line-up is Wrinkles, an unassuming, realistic look at the lives of eldery people in the retirement home. Like the subject matters, the animation is limited, the pacing is slow and the character designs are plain and simple, but it is told from an angle that is rarely explored in today’s medium, live-action or otherwise. When our old men talk about the swimming pool in the retirement house and regard it as “it’s just there to impress the clients – the ones who pay”, it stings because it rings hollowly true. Just like the unflinching “Amour” by Michael Haneke about the lives of old couples, the sad fact that our characters come to learn is that it only gets worse. Their health deteriorates, their memories fade, their family members visit less often, or in some cases, not at all. Again, Wrinkles isn’t meant to be a downer as there are many light-hearted moments here and there, it merely presents the sad truth from a perspective that is mostly overlooked by today’s society.
(3 / 4)
For next post, we’ll again move back a year to 2017 for some European offerings. A little spoiler: they’re all great films. Stay tuned.