Black Gold PES Short Film

Frenesy Film Company

The Annecy International Animated Film Festival is the most significant event of its kind on the calendar, and it wraps up this weekend. Founded in 1960, this thrilling gathering of artists at the foot of the French Alps has premiered films from the likes of Jan Švankmajer, Hayao Miyazaki, Wes Anderson and Bill Plympton. Every year the competition line-up is filled with bizarre, unique and immensely intriguing work from all over the world, but so few of these films find their way to cinemas in the United States, where independent animation on the big screen is something of a rarity.

Fortunately, Annecy is lending the world a bit of a hand this time around. They’re hosting three of their repertory programs online, as well as the entire competition of commissioned works. The festival ends tomorrow but the videos will be available until June 30th (and many of them will probably be kept online indefinitely by the providers).

In total, the online festival includes over 50 films. It’s a bit overwhelming, actually. There’s so much creativity represented, a wide range of international shorts both new and old. The repertory programs include an homage to Norman McLaren and a retrospective glimpse at some of the best Estonian stop-motion films of the last 30 years. The commissioned works section, meanwhile, is characteristically all over the place. There are brief 30-second television ads, music videos, educational programs and public service announcements.

I’ve watched them all. Here are five of my favorites:

Black Gold, by PES

A new PES film is always worth getting excited about, whether branded or not. The stop motion animator, nominated for an Oscar for his unique take on guacamole, has teamed up with Italian fashion retailer Yoox to promote a new line of insect jewelry from Delfina Delettrez.

PES turns the cold, stylish iconography of a golden female mannequin into an overgrown, fecund landscape populated by expertly crafted bugs. It’s has something of a scary sensuality, far cry from the raunchy fun of Roof Sex (on YouTube). Whether it works to sell accessories remains to be seen, but it certainly sticks in your head.

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Body Memory, by Ülo Pikkov

Built from the notion that our bodies retain the memories of those who came before, this short is an evocation of the deportation of Estonians within the Soviet Union in the 1940s. Yet the horrific specter of a windowless train has much broader implications.

The entire film is an articulation of this single image, one of the defining metaphors of the 20th century. People of yarn are cramped into a single wooden car and jostled about by an unseen force determined to unravel them all. Immensely evocative, it strikes a chord deep within our collective unconscious.

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Instant T, by Perrine Faillet

VHS is dead, long live VHS. The conceit of this music video, essentially, is that a room full of old VHS tapes looks awesome if you animate them into crazy shapes and patterns. It’s captivating, tapping into the ability of really good stop motion to overwhelm your brain with the sheer impossibility of its images. It’d work quite nicely in a collection of films by and dedicated to Norman McLaren, though it instead can be found in the official competition of commissioned films.

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Notes on a Triangle, by René Jodoin

The most hypnotic of the splendidly spellbinding program of films assembled by the National Film Board of Canada to celebrate McLaren’s legacy, Jodoin’s Notes on a Triangle is exactly what you’d expect from the title. An endless variety of colored triangles morphing into other colored triangles. They break apart and merge together again, sometimes symmetrically and sometimes not, but always with a peculiar flair. And, following the three-pointed theme of the images, Jodoin accompanies these dancing triangles with an enchanting waltz.

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Supermoine Holypop, by BAKERS

This is an ad for organic French soda. It looks like an ad for some sort of bizarre Game of Thrones spinoff videogame. The benefit of this, presumably, is convince French Game of Thrones fans (of which there are a great many) to drink organic soda. Sounds like a foolproof plan to me.

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