July 17, 2009

This just in: you can win one of 25 tickets to tonight's Montreal screening of Les Lascars, a French feature based on the Flash animations of the same name. Les Lascars shorts are a little rough around the edges but sidesplitting. The feature keeps the overall feel, but some care has been put into the production values, providing lots of polish.

The International premiere of the film takes place tonight, Friday July 17th at 7:00 p.m. at the Fantasia festival.

This screening is the original French version with English subtitles.

If you would like a ticket to tonight's film, be one of the first 25 people to send your full name by email to lascars@fpsmagazine.com before 1 pm EST. (You must be available to pick up your ticket at the Hall theatre 20 minutes before the film begins).

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July 2, 2009

The full Fantasia 2009 lineup will be announced soon, but here are some of the animation highlights of North American's largest cult film festival, right in fps's home base of Montreal.

I'm excited about Genius Party Beyond, Studio 4C's companion to Genius Party, shown last year at the festival.

Hells Angels is a Madhouse production with a star crew behind this manga adaptation. Cencoroll is a shorter take that seems quite intriguing. Seems equally intriguing, but with a more sedate, less over-the-top storytelling style.

The feature Les Lascars is based on the French cult show of the same name and should go over well with the boisterous festival crowd (if you've not yet made it to a Fantasia festival screening, the involvement of the audience is worth the price of the ticket alone).

Tokyo Onlypic 2008 looks like it will be a side-splitter. It's an anthology of animated and live-action shorts describing outrageous Olympic-style events. Check out Bill Plympton's Race For Love in the trailer.

DJ XL5's Razzle Dazzle Zappin' Party promises another year or crazily juxtaposed shorts (many animated) simulating the channel-changing experience... to the power of ten.

Celluloid Experiments always features edgy animation selections in its roster. I doubt this year will be any different.

You'll be able to view the full schedule online and procure a printed festival program with a DVD full of trailers on Friday. Hope you can survive the wait!

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February 27, 2009

Spring break is here and it is time for Festival international de films pour enfants de Montreal (FIFEM) once again. The opening film from France, Mia et le Migou is far from the only animated selection this year, but it is definitely an interesting one. The film's director is Jacques-Remy Girerd, the producer of Tragic Story with Happy Ending and Hungu (recently featured in the NFB Screening Room) and director of delightful La prophétie des grenouilles (Raining Cats and Frogs). Mia was released in France last year, and is proving to be a hit with families.

Another animated feature that recently received accolades, Nocturna, a 2007 feature from Spain, is also screening. In all there are five animated features to keep the kids and their animation-friendly parents interested.

fps favourites Komaneko and Ludovic are back in the Mini-cinephiles program track, geared toward animation for children as young as 2 or 3. Komaneko is a stop-motion cat, who likes to make stop-motion films. Ludovic is a little teddy bear whose educational and inventive tales are also told using stop-motion animation, directed by Co Hoedeman, Oscar winner for the short, Sand Castle. The Ludovic television series is a follow-up to the Four Seasons in the Life of Ludovic shorts.

Even more shorts will screen before feature films, including Konstantin Bronzit's Oscar-nominated short, A Lavatory Lovestory.

Do it for the kids... er, les enfants... all fillms will be screening in French or with French subtitles.

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December 4, 2008
Whoa! Christmas shows up early for Montreal animation lovers. This year's Sommets du cinema d'animation de Montreal (Montreal Animation Summit) literally explodes this year, with an expanded lineup, including exhibits and great guests.

As in recent years, Marco de Blois, animation curator at the Cinematheque quebecoise, has gathered some of the year's best animated shorts in two programs screening on Friday and Saturday. This year, the audience gets to vote on their favourite and award a public prize to the best director.

This is just the beginning. This weekend includes a program of the notable international student films from 2006, 2007, and 2008; the best recent Canadian animation; and a free screening of Acme Filmworks and Animation World Network's The Show of Shows, presented by Ron Diamond.

I'm not done yet: A major restrospective, Du praxinoscope au cellulo (From Praxinoscope to Cel), is divided into three programs, two of them specifically targeted to include younger viewers. This film series focuses on the evolution of French moving images, and touches on drawings, marionettes, and pin, cell, cut-out, mixed media, and computer animation. This is an extraordinary chance to see shorts by Emile Cohl, Ladislaw Starevich, and Paul Grimault, among others.

Now get a load of these prices.
Free 0–5 years accompanied by an adult
Free Show of Shows
$4 6–15 years
$6 students and seniors
$7 adults
$50 CinéSommets passport, all-access pass

For the full schedule, including parties and concurrent exhibits, download the PDF program.

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July 8, 2008

I had the opportunity to catch the Canadian premiere of Fear(s) of the Dark, a French film that understands what it is to tell a story, many in fact, about fear in various forms. The six stories are not told consecutively, a surprising but successful choice, as viewers are often used to stories being discrete. As a result, the viewer is briefly disoriented at times, returning to a story that was not quite over.

Some fears are completely mundane. Others are truly horrifying, because they are so outlandish, like Charles Burns' story, or because they may have actually happened, like the one by Blutch.

The standout piece was by Richard McGuire and Michel Pirus. It is a taut story that is not incredibly scary (this is arguable - my viewing companion was squirming in her seat), it is beautifully conceived visually, aurally and had the complete attention of the audience.

The DVD will be out later this summer, but it is definitely worth catching if it shows theatrically at a theatre near you.

The screening I attended was also a fundraiser for my brother, the creator of this site and the original Frames Per Second print magazine. All the ticket proceeds will be given to him and his family. I would like to extend my thanks to all who attended and the Fantasia festival team for offering their support.

Peur(s) du Noir screens again in French with English subtitles on Wednesday at the Fantasia film festival.

Previously on fps:
2008 Fantasia Festival Animation
Peur(s) du Noir Screening at Fantasia to Benefit fps Editor

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July 6, 2008
The Canadian premiere of Peur(s) du Noir on Monday is a part of Fantasia's 2008 spotlight, Animated Auteur Visions. Not all of the six shorts are horror films, but each features a black and white animated exploration of fear. Contributors include comic artists Charles Burns and Blutch.

The screening will also be a benefit for fps editor, Emru Townsend. A portion of the profits from each ticket sold will go toward Emru and his immediate family as he prepares for his upcoming bone marrow transplant.

(Earlier this year, Emru wrote a message letting people know that they could help to save his life or that of another person waiting for a bone marrow or stem cell transplant. In June, a potential match was found in the system where there previously were none among over 12 million people registered as potential donors. You can read more about his experience on the Heal Emru blog.)

Previously on fps:
2008 Fantasia Festival Animation

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January 22, 2008
Today, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the 2008 Oscar nominees. For all the concern of Beowulf getting a spot, the worry was for naught. The shorts are diverse, in technique, storytelling and geography.


Persepolis (Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud, France)
Ratatouille (Brad Bird, US)
Surf's Up (Ash Brannon and Chris Buck, US)


Even Pigeons Go To Heaven (Samuel Tourneux and Simon Vanesse, France) entire short
I Met The Walrus (Josh Raskin, Canada) clip
Madame Tutli-Putli (Chris Lavis & Maciek Szczerbowski, Canada) clip
My Love (Alexander Petrov, Russia) clip
Peter and The Wolf (Suzie Templeton and Hugh Welchman, UK) clip

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December 20, 2007
Tous À L’Ouest, the new Lucky Luke animated feature, is an extraordinarily refreshing film; a masterpiece in slapstick and screwball animation filmmaking. It is a feature Chuck Jones or Tex Avery could have made, had they been animating on the other side of the Atlantic. This film is somewhat of a rarity: it’s hand drawn 2D, it’s European (produced by French studio Xilam), and based on classic comic book characters that many would consider outdated by now. I did not see the live-action flick Les Daltons from 2005, so I cannot get into any comparisons with it, but Tous À L’Ouest firmly stands next to the Belvision and Dargaud Films animated Lucky Luke movies: an updated, more eccentric version of them.

In this outing, director Olivier Jean-Marie selects all the right elements of the Lucky Luke saga to spend time on, to update, and to take into a zany, Terry Gilliam and Buster Keaton direction: that means plenty of Dalton Brothers action, cinematic showdowns, bar fights, furniture destruction, bank robberies, chases, and cabaret dancers. All of this, delivered in muscular, over-the-top 2D animation (you won’t get enough of Joe Dalton going bonkers) and through a layered plotline.

The film is based on the Morris/Goscinny Lucky Luke comic book La Caravane, in which the lonesome cowboy shepherds a caravan from eastern United States to the West. In Jean-Marie’s version, the cowboy meets the caravan folk (immigrants traveling to California to claim their newly bought lands) in New York City, where he has just put the Daltons in jail. The two story points inevitably intertwine, as Lucky Luke accepts to help the caravan cross safely the country and drag along with him the Daltons, who, fresh from their Big Apple jailbreak, are quickly recaptured by the cowboy. Why he doesn’t simply find another slammer for them in New York did not cross my mind, as I was simply too engrossed in the film’s action.

The NYC setting is wholly entertaining and does not feel tacked on at all, despite the fact that none of Lucky Luke’s adventures have taken place in industrialized New York. After the Daltons escape prison, they are treated to a Wall Street full of banks on each side of a gold bricked road, and a Times Square with a five story “Gun and Rifle Store”. Much of the cityscape, including the wagons on the streets and those of the caravan that the cowboy escorts, are rendered in cel-shaded 3D that blends beautifully with the drawn characters. It’s not just the quality of the cel-shading that makes the blending seamless: all of the 3D elements are modeled in the Morris’s graphic style. During the chase sequences, as much stretch and squash is applied to the wagons as to the 2D characters.

The boldest and strongest aspect of Tous À L’Ouest is evidently the powerful cartoon animation seen on the Joe Dalton character and Crook, a new villain created for the film. This slimy estate broker is designed to be deliciously evil: tall and thin with a hunch, sporting a mustache and a hat (it might remind you of another recent villain: Bowler Hat Guy from Meet The Robinsons.) This design makes for serpentine poses and takes, which often occur in that order: Crook attempts to sabotage the caravan from reaching its destination; he goes into elastic takes when his plans fail.

The way Joe Dalton’s character is handled in this film is a call to other mediums of cinema (live-action, CG animation) to accept the challenge in portraying extreme comedic anger. Joe is like Kricfulasi’s Ren but more agitated. He’s a walking time-bomb, ready to explode at any moment. His animated anatomy is comprised of two basic shapes: his large head and his tiny body. They behave as though they are propelled by a trampoline whenever he jumps in the air and screams how much he detests Lucky Luke. This recurring Morris/Goscinny scenario is pushed to the next level on the big screen because the animation of two people that bother Joe the most- his slow-witted brother Averel, and the cool-tempered cowboy- is much more restrained.

Tous À L’Ouest is a celebration of the cartoony, the burlesque and of repetitive shticks. The Daltons have two things on their mind: to get their loot and kill Lucky Luke. You will witness them act on these goals throughout the film; each time displaying more of their sheer stupidity and ineptitude of actions. This film is a must must-see for all cartoon fans, not just Lucky Luke ones. It’s as close as its going to get to a proper Bugs Bunny or Daffy Duck feature. We will probably not see this style of traditional animation on the big screen for a while, so see it before it’s out of the theatres.

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October 12, 2007
Le Festival du Nouveau Cinéma is known for its wolf that adorns its publicity materials. The fest has a track called Les P'tits Loups or, in English, Little Wolves, with programming geared towards children, and only two shorts in that entire track are live-action. The selections will definitely be of interest to parents and guardians, and honestly, I think if you left the kids at home you might not notice.

The track begins on the morning of Saturday, October 13 with U, a feature from France that appears to be a fairy tale on the outside and is a coming of age story underneath it all, despite the unicorn and the castle. It deals with concepts of love and adolescence in a very disarming fashion.

Sunday, October 14 features an hour's worth of Komaneko: The Curious Cat shorts. I can't recommend this highly enough. Our heroine is the ultimate do-it-yourselfer and amateur auteur. This little stop-mo cat creates her own stop-motion shorts, makes her own props, sets and puppets, and can be found outside filming her surroundings. One of her partners in crime is a little cat who builds robots and fixes mechanical objects.
Kids take away a great lesson, and the shorts, although suitable for children as young as 3, can entertain someone in their 50s just as easily. The shorts are well-crafted, include engaging characters and they have a simple, but coherent story. In Japan, it is distributed by Geneon Entertainment. It's too bad that they'll no longer be distributing DVDs in North America. I hope that someone else distributes them here. For now, you can get them at Yesasia.

For a more diverse selection, Sunday, October 21 features the various shorts, mostly animated, including the hilarious Isabelle au Bois Dormant/Sleeping Betty from Claude Cloutier at the NFB. If the festival's selection doesn't get local kids interested in film and animation, I'm not sure what will.

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October 10, 2007
Since Persepolis and Madame Tutli-Putli each screened at Cannes and won awards this year in May, they have appeared at animation and mainstream film festivals to acclaim. Montrealers can now finally see both films by attending the Festival du Nouveau Cinéma, which begins today.

Animation seems to have taken on a more important role in the festival with more shorts than ever. However, a few might slip through the cracks if you aren't careful. The visceral Face lies in wait in Competition 1, on Thursday, October 11 and Wednesday, October 17th. Madame Tutli-Putli is showing during Competition 2 this Friday, October 12 and Tuesday, October 16. Selina Cobley's Crow Moon screens in Competition 3 next week on the 17th and 18th.

The National Film Board of Canada Stereo Lab is screening four stereoscopic shorts, which 2004 OIAF attendees might have seen, but this screening includes the premiere of a stereoscopic version of Theodor Ushev's phenomenal Tower Bawher.

Previously on fps
Festival du Nouveau Cinéma coverage
Persepolis coverage
Two Podcasts for Madame Tutli-Putli

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September 26, 2007
Award-winning French animator Florence Miailhe will be giving a master class this Thursday, September 27th, at the Cinémathèque Québécoise at 3 p.m. Miailhe works in-camera with oil paint, pastel and sand to create rich imagery in films such as Conte de quartier, which is a Films de l'Arlequin and National Film Board of Canada production.

Thanks to the generosity of the NFB and Antitube, she will be in Montreal and on Friday in Quebec City at the Museum of Civilisation to meet with the public. Both events are free!

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March 6, 2007
(Click images to enlarge.)
Around these parts, schoolkids are at home for their March break. Since Friday, Montreal's Ex-Centris cinema offers a feature-length fairy tale for younger audiences: Azur and Asmar, the Michel Ocelot film that was well-received at Annecy last year.

The French-language film screens every day during the break, and a few more daytime screenings continue throughout the month until March 25th.

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