‘Annual entertainment show of the shows’ review: A mix of fantasy and dread – Reuters

In 2016, the famous Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki we showed animation sequences generated by artificial intelligence. In it, a humanoid form glides back and forth, its movements startlingly alien. Far from being impressed, Miyazaki was deeply disturbed. For this most human artist, the demonstration was “an insult to life”.

Fortunately, Miyazaki is unlikely to be offended by the examples of short animations featured in the 22nd edition of “The Annual Entertainment Show.” Curated by producer Ron Diamond, the chosen films (nine recent, plus one restored classic) feature multiple techniques (none of them AI-assisted) and talent from around the world. Themes include both personal and planetary crises, in tones ranging from whimsical to hopeful to vaguely apocalyptic. Unsurprisingly, the pressures of modern life weigh heavy, with more than one short highlighting our dependence on the environment and each other.

Two of the sweetest emotional addresses with childlike simplicity. In “Aurora”, Canadian director Jo Meuris, supported by a beautiful musical score and endearing drawings of matchstick figures, tells the story of a little girl’s love for a horse. And in ingeniously evocative “Ties,” Russian animator Dina Velikovskaya shows how a girl heading off to college can be the literal thread that unravels the life she left behind.

While none of the offerings directly reference the pandemic, one of my favorites, “Empty Places” by Geoffrey de Crécy, drifts on a wistful, meditative mood and images of the world without us. A record player playing Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” repeats endlessly; unclaimed baggage spins aimlessly on an airport carousel. The film’s pastel-hued deserted spaces have a poignancy that is echoed in Israeli animator Gil Alkabetz’s “Beseder (Good and Best)”, who died earlier this year, and musician Tova Gertner. Together they weave sweet song lyrics and artfully distorted figures into surreal vignettes about the stubbornness of pessimism.

In general, the mood is subdued, with several of the most abstract inclusions — like Jeanne Apergis’ “Zoizoglyph,” whose sounds and images line up to depict crowds of bird-like figures panicked by an alien — requiring more than one viewing to analyze. So it’s a relief to encounter the clarity and earthy realism of Gísli Darri Halldórsson’s “Yes-People (Ja Folkio)”, the only comedy in the collection. Echoing the familiar grunts, sighs and orgasmic cries of the residents of a thin-walled building as they go about their daily lives, this primary-colored charmer makes a timely plea for tolerance. Even when your neighbors are extremely vigorous.

Bringing up the rear – and claiming a third of the compilation’s 90-minute runtime – is Canadian director Frédéric Back’s English-language version, digitally remastered and Oscar-winning 1987, “The Man Who Planted Trees”. Carried by the velvety narration of Christopher Plummer, the film follows a lonely alpine shepherd as he plants thousands of acorns, his industry finally rewarded with a forest that transforms his desolate surroundings. Based on a 1953 fable by Jean Giono, Back’s beautifully impressionistic drawings make a simple argument for environmental renewal and individual action. The film’s idealization of an uncluttered life may seem dated, but its message of doing something about it is one that never goes out of style.

The 22nd Annual Animation Show
Unclassified. Duration: 1h30. In theaters.

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‘Annual entertainment show of the shows’ review: A mix of fantasy and dread – Reuters

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