This was the Children’s Programme toured from the London International Animation Festival screened at the Hyde Park Picture House. A rather nice idea, a set of films suitable for all the family. That is what we got at the Picture House, and [with a few minor wanderings] the kids and their parents seemed to really enjoy the selection. I gathered from the projectionist that the programme was provided on a disc and then the staff copied this to a DCP: one would have hoped that an International Festival could mange to use a theatrical format for this. Still it was an entertaining selection of varied animation films from a number of different countries.
Simon’s Cat: Pizzacat (2015), 1’50
A hungry cat gets the last slice. This was the first of two ‘cat cartoons’. From the credits it seems that this character appears both on film and in books: I suspect the latter was the earlier appearance. The films are drawn in black and white lines. The cat is typical of its kind:. clever and self-contained, usually battling with his owner: in this case over a pizza. The second example – Box Clever. In this case a regular character, the neighbouring boxer/bulldog, assists the cat caught in a cone guard.
You can check out episodes and creator Simon Tofield’s techniques at https://simonscat.com/about/
Perfect Houseguest (2015), 1’35
A house is visited by a clean, organised and well-mannered guest. The film from the USA uses models, the houseguest being a domesticated mouse who makes the house ordered and shipshape.
Rita and Crocodile – Fishing (2014) , 5’00
Rita and Crocodile are going fishing and Rita lectures Crocodile on how to fish.
We also had a second film in which Rita & her Crocodile visit the Forest in search of conkers. The Crocodile is extremely affable, far removed from the threatening beasts common on screen. The films, produced by Ladybird, are from Denmark, but this was an English-language version.
Submarine Sandwich (2014), 2’00
The first step to a delicious sandwich is slicing the meat. Only in this case what the film animates is a set of food substitutes: balls, gloves, medallions and so on. This is a new stop-motion film from the director of Fresh Guacamole (PES, USA 2012), the latter had the status of shortest film ever nominated for an Oscar.
With Different Eyes (2015), 4’10
A trip around the world on a wooden train set. This film is almost abstract, playing with sets of mecano-type-like parts. There is also a song, translated via subtitles.
Boom Boom The Fisherman’s Daughter (2013), 8’25
A lonely fisherman with a long nose befriends an orphaned baby elephant who believes that the man is its mother. This was beautifully drawn though the plot was rather opaque. The relationships between characters are very nicely done.
A Single Life (2014), 2’20
A life can be lived, measured and manipulated in so many different ways but beware the cracks and the sudden endings. The ingenious story here offers a series of transformations, which also take us through the cycle of life and death. This Dutch film makes ingenious use of an usual prop, an old 45 rpm vinyl record.
Airmail (2014), 6’10
A fish, a cat, a wrestler and the woman who would save them all. Unusual ingredients for an unlikely long distance love affair. The title and the style of this film suggest homage to Len Lye. There continuity is tied together by the continuing efforts of a cat to catch a goldfish.
Taipei Recyclers (2014), 7’00
A riot of sound and colour using trash collected from the streets of Taipei. The film uses all the possible detritus from its setting, a rather abstract presentations.
Very Lonely Cock (2015), 6’00
It’s a hard day for the very lonely cock. Perhaps tomorrow it’ll be better. Who knows? Anyway, it can’t get any worse. Or can it? Bizarre but entertaining Russian film with no dialogue. The film is almost surrealist in its antics and humour.
Sweet Dreams (2015), 11’45
A coincidental meeting of a house hamster and a pair of squirrels. It took me time to identify one animal as a hamster. Their relationships are built on accords, though winter and into spring.
Some of the films are featured on YouTube.
Rita and Crocodile – Submarine Sandwich by PES – A Single Life
This was a programme of the winners in Short Film City at the 29th Leeds International Film Festival screened at the Hyde Park Picture House. This was a good opportunity to see the films selected as the ‘best’ all at one shot. One of thing I noticed about the programme overall was the amount of explicit sex and violence. There was more than I remember from earlier festivals and more than I saw among the short films I did catch during the actual festival. So I had a look at the four Juries. The four trios consisted of five filmmakers, two film programmers, three artists working with film and two members working in Higher Education. Their short biographies did not shed any light on the issue. Perhaps there was a higher level of such content this year.
The programme ran for 85 minutes. The various films and formats were projected from a DCP.
Louis le Prince International Short Film Competition 2015
Winner: Drama (Guan Tian, USA)
This is an eleven-minute film, and whilst made in the USA has Chinese dialogue. The protagonists, a boy and girl, watch the outside world from inside a car. “An intimate look at human voyeurism’. This was a film I really liked. I thought the plotting was imaginative and the technical aspects were extremely well done. It was very funny as well.
World Animation Award 2015
Winner: Manoman (Simon Cartwright, UK)
Another eleven-minute film using puppets. The premise is the protagonist Glen creates his own ‘homunculus’, [a representation of a small human being]. This attempt at sublimation opens ‘uninhibited impulses [that] lead to disastrous consequences in this night-long insane rampage . . .’ The film aimed to be disturbing and succeeded, though I was not convinced that there was an articulated comment. The catalogue also includes a comment, [presumably by the filmmaker], ‘A film about limits, with no limits!’
British Short Film Competition 2015
Winner: Rate Me (Fyzal Boulifa, UK)
This film ran 17 minutes. Its main protagonist was a teen escort Cocoa. But we do not really see much of her directly. The extremely smart premise of the film is to learn about her through reviews posted on an online forum. This was effective and witty, but I thought that there was not enough import for the whole length of the film. The postings do reveal as much about the authors as the object, but there were limited variation. I suspect if you follow such online forums the film is more effective.
Yorkshire Short Film Competition
Winner: Cargo (Oli Carr, UK)
We had a slight hiccup with this film; the sound did not work at first. I thought this was going to be a really strange type of story. Then we stopped and re-started, with sound and dialogue. Two Syrian refuges hide out in a truck crossing from Europe to the UK. This takes 15 minutes and the opening is deliberately slow and then the tension mounts. I thought the plotting was well thought out, since the story is one that repeats many times a day. And the resolution left space for the audience to consider the implications.
Leeds International Screendance Competition 2015
Winner: Choreography for the Scanner (Mariam Eqbal, USA)
This film used animation for nine minutes. Apparently the technique involved a flatbed scanner: this might be a first. It relies on repeating and multiplying sets of images. Variations were introduced by compressing and elongating the imagery. I did find that the repetition ran out of interest before the end.
Leeds International Music Video Competition 2015
Winner: Lightning Bolt – The Metal East (Lale Westvind, USA)
I cannot really write much about this film. It had the loudest sound track I have heard in ages, surpassing that of Mad Max: Fury Road. I took shelter in the foyer for the approximately four minutes of running time.
Leeds Short Film Audience Award 2015
Winner: The Reinvention of Normal (Liam Saint-Pierre, UK)
This eight minute film follows “an artist / inventor / designer. on his quest for new ideas.” The creations in the film were oddball. There was a slight feeling that this was meant to offer a sense of the surreal. What is did offer was the eccentric. But I felt that needed a more personal voice to sustain interest.
Audience favourite across all short films.
Madam Black (UK New Zealand 2015)
This was almost a family friendly film. A photographer accidentally runs over the pet of a little girl. In order to avoid the painful truth he constructs an alternative world for the child. So we follow Madame Black on her travels and the postcards that she sends back. The film also managed to tie in a slight romance. A pleasure to watch.
I am afraid I missed the last two entries in the programme,
Dark Owl International Fantasy Short Film Competition
Winner: A Boy’s Life (Howard McCain, USA)
Winner: Milk! (Ben Malleby, UK)
This offered two programmes in the Leeds International Film Festival Short Film City section.
The Leon Schiller National Higher School of Film, Television and Theatre in Łódź (Państwowa Wyższa Szkoła Filmowa, Telewizyjna i Teatralna im. Leona Schillera w Łodzi) is the leading Polish academy for future actors, directors, photographers, camera operators and TV staff. [The current name is in honour of the actor and first rector Leon Schiller].
You get a sense of the school’s status when you look at the list of alumni:
The School has three Oscar-winning alumni: Roman Polanski, Andrzej Wajda and Zbigniew Rybczyński, while alumnus Krzysztof Kieślowski was nominated for an Oscar. Both Polanski and Wajda won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2002 and 1981, respectively.
So it was a must for me to turn up for the first programme which was a series of short films produced between 1958 and 1986. The selection repaid my interest.
Two men and a wardrobe (Dwaj ludzie z szafą 1958) in black and white and running 14 minutes. The film is without dialogue and follows the characters and prop of the title. This is one of the famous films made by Polanski as a student. It is a real surrealist piece, droll and engaging as we follow the antics of the men and their interaction with passersby. The film opens and closes on the sea-shore which seems highly symbolic.
Conflicts (Konflikty 1960). Directed by Daniel Szczechura, this is a seven minute animation using stop-motion techniques. The plot concerns a marital triangle leading to a violent conclusion.
The Game (Zabawa 1960). Filmed in black and white and directed by Witold Leszczynski, the film runs for 9 minutes. The game in question involves a couple in a car and another driver with whom they race. This is a very sardonic piece: I wondered if Spielberg saw it before Duel (1971)?
The Office (Urzad 1966). This is a five minute documentary in black and white. The focus on an administrative space and the interaction betweens staff and users seems typical of the director, Krzyztof Kieślowski. The sort of sequence that appears in far more complex fashion in his later films.
Kirk Douglas (1966). A 10 minute documentary directed by Marek Piwowaki recording the visit by the Hollywood actor to the Film School. Douglas is clearly exploring h his routes, but also enjoy the intense interest and even adulation that he is accorded.
Concert of Requests (Koncert zyczeń 1967. This 16 minute drama in black and white was directed by Krzyztof Kieślowski. Like The Office it has recognisable themes and style. A couple on a motor bike, packing up after camping, encounter a fairly rowdy bus load of people. The latter include band members, perhaps returning from some concert event. The film follows the encounter and the brief conflict that develops. Like the filmmakers later and longer features, this was fascinating to watch.
Market (Rynek 1971). This five minute experiment was directed by Józef Robakowski and Tadeusz Junak. The film uses fast motion over a period of about a day and in long shot to record the event.
Square (Kwadrat 1972). Another experimental film with animated colour by Zbigniew Rybcznski. The four minutes are filled with changing shapes and music in a sort of abstract ballet.
With Raised Hands (Z podniesionymi rekami 1985). This 6 minutes black and white film won a Palme D’Or for the Film School and the director Mitko Panov. The photograph which the film uses is a famous one. But we are offered an alternative narrative. One that offers hope and which seemed to speak both to Polish history and recurring pre-occupations in the work of the Film School.
Krakatau (1986). This was an essay film rather than one with story. In black and white and running for eleven minutes the director, Mariusz Grzegorzek used ‘found footage’ to present a picture of rising frustrations. The footage included what seemed to be a volcanic eruption and reference to the famous one at Krakatoa.
Most of the films were in academy ratio, but a couple were in 1.66:1. They involved a whole host of School students in cinematography, editing sound and other production functions. The one flaw in all of this was the sound track. The volume went up and down from film to film. Apparently the poor projectionist was turning the output up and down as the films, copied to digital, ran. It seems this was on the disc supplied from Poland. This was not only unfortunate, but given the standards in the recent Martin Scorsese Masterpieces of Polish Cinema [with more Łódź alumni] surprising.
There was a second programme of short films made in the last couple of years. One, Hangover (Kao 2015) had arrived without subtitles. With a certain amount of effort I followed the main plot, but not all the subtleties. Set in an Alcohol Recovery Centre it looked rather good. The director was Maciej Buchwald, who likely also scripted the film.
The film that I was most impressed by was Gigant (Giant 2015). The film follows the romantic adventures of young Bartek and his mother, a single parent. I do not know if Polish Television ever featured Yellow Pages adverts, but this seemed to provide a back-story to one that involved French Polishers. I thought the cast were very good, and the development of the characters over 33 minutes was very well done. There was an engaging ironic take on the events as they unfolded. The film was both scripted and directed by Tomasz Jeziorski.
All the films were in colour and widescreen and this was an interesting and enjoyable screening. [Quotations with Links – Wikipedia].
This is fairly short film, 37 minutes, screening in the Leeds International Film Festival. However it offers as much interest as many longer feature documentaries. The subject is a cache of art works by people who were committed to a long-stay hospital, Netherne in Surrey, diagnosed with psychiatric illnesses, including schizophrenia. The collection has been named after Edward Adamson who operated a studio in the hospital from 1946 until 1981. Adamson is regarded as a pioneer in the use of art for therapy.
The collection comprises over 5,000 works created by patients in the period. Some of the early works appear to have been produced by patients before the studio was opened. Items 1 to 3 were drawn by a patient on toilet tissues. At this time the regime in the hospital was extremely oppressive: the film refers to the removal of organs like teeth to assist in controlling patients. And this was a regime that seems to have denied the inmates any autonomy.
At first the studio was regarded by the psychiatrists there as a diagnostic tool. One almost surrealist-style painting was described as revealing,
‘deficit conceptual ordering of space.’
Other comments on the works tended to see the patient/artists as divorced from reality.
In the 1950s a more liberal regime appears to have developed. Adamson was able to develop the studio for therapeutic purposes and to allow a degree of self-expression for the patients. Over the life of the studio some 100,000 art works were created. These were stored but when the hospital closed in 1993 many were dumped and only the 5,000 or so housed by the Welcome Trust survive.
These do not appear to be a selection of the best, just the fortunate survivors. The items used in the film are really impressive. The illustration at the head reminds me of the work of Salvador Dali on Hitchcock’s film Spellbound (1945). Among these works are paintings, portraits, landscapes, sculptures and artefacts – they are imaginative, often technically impressive, sometimes derivative and sometimes approaching a surrealist response to ‘reality’. Some of the work was by artists who were committed to the hospital, but some was by apparently untrained eyes and hands.
The film combines footage shot at hospital, stills, examples of the art work and more recent film. There are also interviews, including briefly Adamson himself, and some earlier film of patients and more recent interviews and comments. The film uses recurring voice-overs, both from recordings and by a commentative voice. Visually the film relies on skilled editing, cutting between the artefacts, found footage and illustrative film. Some flaring on the images appears to be technique for highlighting the content.
The film, scripted and directed by Pia Borg and Edward Lawrenson, manages to provide a narrative of the work at the hospital: to suggest something of the oppressive regime that operated, at least for a time; and to give some voice to the creators behind the work. Later in the film there is footage of an exhibition of the work in Paris: there is no sign of an equivalent in the UK. The collection is now housed in the Welcome Trust Library and by SLaM Arts.
The is documentary is accompanied by a short experimental or avant-garde film, Exquisite Corpus (2015). This is by the Austrian director Peter Tscherkassky. It is on 35mm, in black and white, academy ratio and runs for 19 minutes. The film is
‘based on various erotic films and advertising rushes. I play on the “cadavre exquis” technique used by the Surrealists, drawing disparate body parts constellating magical creatures. Myriad fragments are melted into a single sensuous, humorous, gruesome, and ecstatic dream.’
The film makes extensive use of fast editing, superimpositions and dissolves as well as reverse imaging. The soundtrack is equally experimental. This is one of the experimental work that appears to have a strong subjective focus. Its purpose is experimental and – I am not sure. It is adult material. It also appears to include footage from feature films as well as ‘the erotic’. I recognised a clip, in black and white, from Tony Richardson’s film of Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones (1963). Whilst it accompanies the Adamson documentary I think it is actually of a different order of art. Abandoned Goods is 12A but Exquisite Corpus is 18.
Note, the screening only lasts an hour and is on again at 2.30 p.m. this Sunday [Nov. 8th] at the Hyde Park Picture House – really worth fitting in.