by Richard von Busack
It’s called the “Show of Shows,” and that’s lofty, but animator Ron Diamond’s 17th Annual Animation Show of Shows deserves fanfare. It’s odd that the type of film in which there is the most sense of lightness, immediacy and play requires intensive labor, great craft and even greater care.
Conor Whelan’s dialogue-free Snowfall was so delicate that it needed to be watched carefully to get its gist. A solitary man goes to a party and has an encounter with a stranger, and the evening ends with a bicycle ride across a snowy Amsterdam canal. It’s not a bummer; it accepts the possibilities of happiness, if not happiness for the hero (as in the little jig the hostess does when she sees a friendly face at her door).
Konstantin Bronzit’s We Can’t Live Without the Cosmos continues the work that Ray Bradbury did to humanize questions of space travel. I wish Bradbury had lived to see it. This wordless Damon and Pythias story of two Russian cosmonauts is animation at its best.
Made in 3D animation by a French collective of five artists, Ascension mocks a figure usually considered above ridicule—the amputee mountain climber. He and his Sherpa are hauling a bronze statue of the Virgin Mary to the top of an alp. The icon is unwanted by both the mountain and by an ornery bird who, incidentally, is better animated than that seagull in The Walk.
Don Hertzfeldt caps the show with his World of Tomorrow. Hertzfeldt is a wonder. He’s long been able to bring depth and savage humor out of the shaky stick figures he draws, which are augmented here with retro-future UPA(United Productions of America)-style backdrops. It’s a dialogue between a toddler and a crisply British-accented futurian from the 2280s. Speaking to “Emily Prime”—her babbling four-year-old grandmother-to-be—future Emily speaks of robot poetry, her mature love for a rock and the memory of a brainless clone exhibited in a museum vitrine. Hertzfeldt is as minimalist as you can go, and yet the poignancy is vast here; the film deserves all comparisons to Chris Marker’s La Jetée, as well as Kore-Eda’s After Life.
The 17th Annual Animation Show of Shows screens at the Lark Theater from Oct. 30 to Nov. 5; 549 Magnolia Ave., Larkspur; 415/924-5111; larktheater.net.