2017 might not be a great year for mainstream studio releases, but in terms of independent films there are many that leave a lasting impact. These three films, all from Europe, have distinct aesthetic and different art styles, yet I can’t imagine they are in any form other than animation. They all played during the Annecy Film Festival (though Big Bad Fox and Mutafukaz weren’t in the main competition, and Cinderella the Cat played a year later), which still remains one of the leading animation festivals. Let’s unpack them below.
The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales (2017)
Sketched by three standalone skits, The Big Bad Fox makes full use of its childish, simple character designs and watercolour background for a timeless family-friendly fare that children can enjoy and adults can appreciate. Let’s get this of the way first, the comedic timing of The Big Bad Fox is incredibly sharp, and with expressive animation, The Big Bad Fox is witty, whimsical and endearing from start to finish. Nearly every dialogues hit, the physical comedy is on point and the characters are likable. The first segment, in particular, remains my favorite as I love every second of it. The second segment, in which the film is named after, is the most endearing and its heart is in the right place. The final one lacks the brilliance of the first two in my opinion, but by then the recurrent characters feel right at home that it’s just a blast to spend time with them and see what misfortunes they are about to encounter.
(3 / 4)
Cinderella the Cat (2017)
After watching and was impressed by Alessandro Rak’/ debut The Art of Happiness, I came to watch Cinderella the Cat with high expectation, and I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, Cinderella the Cat is more engaging and pulls its punch harder than his debut. The settings, which take place almost entirely inside a ship, are rich in detail and are also Cinderella the Cat’s most distinctive aspect. Inside the ship, the past and present continue to interweave, and that itself brings many different layers to the film. Regrets, memory, the innocent lost… are all smartly conveyed. It also works as a plot device but I am not too fond of it. The art favors more realistic looks (well, compared to the other two of the list), but the background arts of the deteriorating ship, with holograms and some neat direction make it a more unique film out there. The way the film handles the performances, for example, is specular. It zooms in and out of the singer and makes us directly participate to it. You might guess it based on the title, Cinderella the Cat is a modern interpretation of the fairytale Cinderella, and although it’s not as explicitly following Cinderella’s story, I enjoy all the references there. After all, this film is set in Italy and it’s in a way… very Italian. Which is not a bad thing at all. The characters, especially the titular character, aren’t the fleshed out as they feel more in service of the bigger themes than full-fledge characters, but the climax revolving Cinderella and her step-mother unexpectedly bring the emotions home. In short, don’t miss out on this one, Cinderella the Cat is a more unique mature animation out there.
(3 / 4)
It’s kind of funny watching Mutafukaz: produced by a Japanese studio, with original French dub in United State settings. In essence, Mutafukaz is like that as well. All over the place, non-stop action but also original and creative. The film is based on the comic book of Guillaume “Run” Renard (also serves as co-director) and the film is more than successful in bringing that quirky and colorful world to the big screen. There are many action set-pieces and some of them are pretty refreshing. The story itself just makes enough sense with twist and turns and although it doesn’t always gel altogether, frankly I don’t mind it at all. The characters are fun, the designs (especially character designs) are unique, and the seedy world where our characters absolutely hate but can’t leave is fun to watch. The third arc, though, is the film’s weakest, as it is mainly resolved not by our main characters, and it could’ve done better to wrap up thematically than this. But overall, I enjoy the time I spent with it. I might check out the English dub since it’ll be more, excuse my French, appropriate that way.