Women Animators from Near and Far

Tuesday September 25th at 6.30 p.m.

‘They Call us Maids’

This programme offers a selection of animation by women film-makers from a round the world. There will we the opportunity to hear film-makers talking about their work. The occasion for this is the celebration of 40 years of the work of the Leeds Animation Workshop. Over this period they have produced 40 animated films and this evening sees the premiere of a new work, Own Skin, made with their support.

Leeds has been fortunate in enjoying the work of this collective which has produced both campaigning work and agitational films. Screening also is their They Call Us Maids from 2015; a film about the exploitation and abuse of migrant domestic workers. And there is also their earlier No Offence (1996) which uses a fairy tale form to critique sexual harassment at work. So here is the opportunity to see both their campaigning film approach and their subversive use of genre.

There will be eight other titles from Britain and from Canada, the Czech republic and the USA. A selection that will represent the rich tapestry of animation work from near and far.

‘Three Thousand’, Canada 2017

This programme should excite you. If so, the Leeds Animation Workshop have a three day residency at 42 New Briggate [right by the Grand Theatre] from Wednesday. [See the |Workshop Facebook Page].

Isle of Dogs USA Germany 2018

Screening every day Saturday through till Thursday April 12th

Judging by the sell-out for the preview screening this title is the most eagerly awaited new release this year. Cult director Wes Anderson has produced a digital animation in colour and widescreen. The film is produced by his own Indian Paintbrush but also involving Studio Babelsberg, a partner in the earlier The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014). Babelsberg was once the site where Weimar cinema produced trailblazing special effects in the 1920s. Set in Japan, though with predominantly English dialogue, the film offers a pack of leading canine players voiced by well-known stars. Owners with cinephilic pets can enjoy a special dog-friendly screening on Saturday April 7th: repeated on April 14th. Later on the 7th a rather different canine representation can be seen in Samuel Fuller’s White Dog (1982).

Wes Anderson has experience of both animation and star voicing in Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009). He also used the techniques in the underwater sequences in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004). The plot revolves around a boy’s search for a lost dog. Youthful protagonists, along with dogs, have been seen in several Anderson titles, notably in my personal favourite Moonrise Kingdom (2012). This film also had one finest uses of an established composer [Benjamin Britten] so it will be interesting to see how Anderson and his team handle musical accompaniment.

The film also seems likely to stray close to the style and themes of Japanese anime. Anderson is, like a number of contemporary film-makers, also a film buff. His American Express: My Life. My Card was a brilliant homage to François Truffaut’s own celebratory Day for Night (La nuit américaine 1973). And I think Anderson must have had some involvement in the ‘Isle of Dogs mobile phone warning trailer’ screening at Picturehouse venues. Let us hope audiences have seen the latter.

What seems likely to be new thematically is an apocalyptic narrative. There is though the school drama in Rushmore (1998) which tends a little in that direction. What should be certain, noting Anderson’s existing output and the reviews of his new film, is that it will offer a very entertaining 100 minutes.

PS The film  is brilliantly done with excellent stop motion animation and CGI. The visual and aural quality on the DCP is fine. The canine characters speak English whilst the human characters speak Japanese with aural translation or sub-titles into English.  The soundtrack includes music by ALexandre Desplat, Hayasaka Fumio and  Sergei Prokofiev. The references and homages come thick and fast and it probably takes two viewings to catch them all. However, there are a number for Kurosawa Akira.

Loving Vincent, UK / Poland 2017

                                                      There is one more screening on Saturday 23rd at 5.15 p.m.           with subtitles for the hard-of-hearing,

 

The last screening of this title was sold out, an uncommon feat at the cinema. It is the recipient of a number of Awards including Best Animated Feature Film Award at the 30th European Film Awards in Berlin. Comments have focused on the sheer visual beauty of the images.

This is an animated feature and it has used a set of distinctive techniques:

“Each of the film’s 65,000 frames is an oil painting on canvas, using the same technique as Van Gogh, created by a team of 115 painters.”

The film also uses live action sequences. These are mainly flashbacks within the narrative.

Van Gogh is one of the most prized [and expensive] painters in European Art and he has a presence in popular culture as well. His personal life and tragic demise have fed into this celebrity. The narrative in this production takes the form of an investigation. A young man, charged with delivering Van Gogh’s final letter, delves into the final days of the artist. Thus the film explores both the personal and the artistic.

The director is a Polish animator Dorota Kobiela with her first feature. Her co-director is Hugh Welchman, who normally works as producer,. The film relied on funding from the Polish Film Institute, an institution with a long and illustrious history.

The production was shot on a digital camera and is in colour and the academy ratio. [IMDB gives 1.33:1 but thus us usually masked to 1.37:1].  The film used a number of ac actors as ‘models’ for the paintings and they also appear in the ‘live action’ sequences. The British release has an English language soundtrack, dubbed by the credited actors and other voices. .

Van Gogh has enjoyed frequent representations on film. There is Lust for Life (USA 1956), directed by Vincente Minnelli with Kirk Douglas playing the artist. Some of the relationships in the film seem a little facile but the artist and his work are well presented. Then there is Vincent and Theo (France, Netherlands, UK, Germany, Italy) a film by Robert Altman with Tim Roth as Van Gogh. Roth makes excellent casting for the tortured artist. And there are several well made documentaries.

Zarafa France, Belgium 2012.

On Saturday 16th January – 11.30 a.m.

Zarafa

Good news, this animated film gets a rerun screening. The version on show may have the original French narration dubbed into English. A friend, who saw the film in the dubbed version, recommended it highly. Since then I have been waiting for an opportunity to catch it.

The title refers to a giraffe, in fact an actual giraffe offered as a present in the early C19th to the French king by the Viceroy of Egypt. The actual hero of the tale is the young Sudanese Maki, who also meets or tangles with slavers, pirates and the Turkish army. He and Zarafa have to cross the desert and pilot their way to France.

This is a tale from the colonial era, but by and large it is the Europeans who are represented negatively. As well as adventures the film offers humour and emotion.

It is another fine example of relatively traditional animation techniques:

“Using a wide-ranging colour palette that shifts from the warmer hues of the Sahara desert to the colder, sadder blues and greys of old-time Paris, Lie and his team provide a pared-down animation technique that recalls classic Disney, albeit with a rougher, at times abstract touch (especially during the Egypt-set sequences).” (Hollywood Reporter)

The screening promises to be a real treat following in the footsteps of the films by Sydney Chomet [Les triplettes de Belleville, 2003 and L’illusionniste, 2010].

Note the film starts promptly at 1130 – more good news, apparently no adverts.

Manuscript workshop and The Secret of Kells

Anna Turner from Leeds University’s Medieval Society takes a look back at the first event at the Hyde Park Picture House as part of their International Medieval Film Festival

The Secret of Kells

Rainy Saturday mornings have a way of slipping away from you – lost somewhere between the duvet and the television. However, on this dull and grey Saturday morning a group of University of Leeds students gathered in Hyde Park Picture House to hold a small but effective protest against waste weekends. It’s not often that a revolution comes along in the form of a Medieval workshop and film screening – but there you have it. What could be more revolutionary than succeeding in getting a group of kids to part with their bed, teaching them about medieval print culture and having them sit silently through a beautifully animated movie about a unique artefact from Irish history, all before lunchtime?

I was one of three University of Leeds students lucky enough to be invited to lead a workshop about ‘The Book of Kells’, and medieval manuscripts more generally, as a sort of interactive introduction to their screening of The Secret of Kells. The event took place as part of the LUU Medieval Soc’s ‘International Medieval Film Festival’ – an offshoot of this year’s International Medieval Congress. The words ‘International Medieval Film Festival’ seem to conjure up images of stiff men in tweed jackets lamenting the lack of period-accurate armour in the latest Crusades docu-drama. Far from it!

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