August 24, 2006
During a conversation with a friend at the National Film Board, she mentioned that as part of the NFB's 65th-anniversary celebrations, they're really pushing their animation heritage. "Oh yeah," I thought, "because you guys never talk about animation." Har har.
Anyway, the Montreal World Film Festival is underway as of today, and the NFB has four recent shorts in the lineup. My favourite—I've watched it six times in the last 48 hours—is Georges Schwizgebel's four-minute Jeu. Like L'Homme sans ombre, which I went gaga over last year, it's a dazzling, colourful, kinetic ride, and a hand-painted delight.
Jeu is set to the scherzo of Prokofiev's Concerto for Piano No. 2, Opus 16, and its visuals match the uptempo whirl. As the orchestra tunes up, we're treated to a countdown in which one number transforms into the next; as the camera pulls back, we see that it's part of several grids of numbers, each at different stages of transformation, resembling your worst Sudoku nightmare. The numbers fade to the title, the music starts in earnest, and we're off—letters transform into shapes, shapes transform into reflections in a pool, we see shadows in the pool, we see the men casting the shadows playing ball... and so on. Unlike L'Homme sans ombre, the camera occasionally comes to a stop, if rarely. But the transformations become faster and wilder as whole scenes transmogrify within themselves and as images—on more than one occasion, the camera pulls back during a transformation and it's revealed that the scene is part of something greater.
I first watched Jeu cold, without bothering to read any of the accompanying material. After watching it for the third time, I finally read the one-sheet, which said that the film is about the frenetic pace of modern life. While the pace and the seeming chaos fit with that thesis, frankly I don't see it. Not that it matters—Jeu is still a feast for the senses.