are two extremes when it comes to violence and death in animation: the
if-this-doesn’t-kill-you-nothing-will slapstick mayhem of Tom & Jerry and the serious
make-you-lose-your-faith-in-humanity cruelty in the films of Yeon Sang-ho (Seoul Station, The King of Pigs). You
can find pretty much everything in between in a new Czech animated anthology.
Death is bittersweet, otherworldly, and ironic, but it is never dull in Jan Bubeníček’s Murderous Tales (trailer here), which screens as
part of the 2016 Anchorage International Film Festival.
these three short films and the interstitial sketches, Bubeníček pretty much does it all: 2D, 3D, stop motion, mo-cap, back projection,
and live action hybrids. Yet, he seems have a consistent, somewhat noir-ish
style, except perhaps for the Groo the Wanderer-esque
Charge the Dragon interludes. They
are amusing, but they seem like inconsequential tidbits compared the three full-course-meal
look and tone, Antonio Cacto is somewhat
similar to Adam (Mary and Max) Elliot,
but less sentimental and more fantastical. Upon inheriting his grandfather’s
flat a (live action) man discovers a mischievous Mexican hobgoblin (3D
animated) living in the cactus. Chaos ensues, but there is massive payoff at
shapes and mannerisms of the characters of the essentially wordless Lighthouse might evoke memories of Shane
Acker’s 9 for some viewers, but this
black-and-white world is more mysterious, yet also more richly realized. The
professor is a field researcher from another world, sent to an outpost on the
edge of a swamp on our planet, or one very much like it. He tries to live in
harmony with the alien environment around him, so he is appalled to learn his “Superior”
has very different intentions. He will go rogue to protect the creatures that
most intrigue him: cows.
The Big Man is sort of the
Czech Tarantino film with hitmen puppets we have waited so long for. A veteran
mob killer and his socially unskilled new partner are supposed to whack the
titular rival gang-leader, but when they lose their directions all kinds of
complications set in. It is a solid piece that would ordinarily serve as a
dynamite calling card, but it is almost anti-climactic following the arresting
visuals of Lighthouse and the
wonderfully humanistic sensibility of Antonio
Cacto. It is “just” very good, whereas the previous two constituent short
films are simply terrific.
Regardless of the installments’ respective
superiority, there is more than enough animated goodness in Bubeníček’s Tales to delight any animation connoisseur.
He calls them “murderous,” because they will slay you, don’t you see? It is
hard to say what age group Bubeníček thought he was
targeting, but Cacto should be safe
for most ages—whereas parental discretion should probably be advised for the
rest of the charmingly sinister tales. Regardless, teens and adults who take
animation seriously will definitely get it. Very highly recommended, Murderous Tales screens this Thursday
(12/8), during the Anchorage International Film Festival.
Labels: Anchorage '16, Animated films, Anthology Films, Czech Cinema