Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Two New Shorts

The Worldwide Short Film Festival is currently running in Toronto. I attended a program today that included Chris Landreth's new film, The Spine, as well as the latest Wallace and Gromit half hour, A Matter of Loaf and Death, directed by Nick Park. Both films are consistent with their creators' previous work.
The Spine
Landreth's approach to animation is a sort of German Expressionism. While the German films of the 1920s expressed their characters' emotions through their surroundings, Landreth uses the characters' own bodies as expressions of their mental and emotional states. This film has to do with a marriage, where the partners are deformed in ways that relate to their experiences and needs.

The problem with this approach is that it requires that the characters be tormented in some way, and that makes each Landreth film an appointment with dysfunction. In addition, Landreth is more enamored of technique than he is of character. The husband and wife each have their own Rosebud, something that explains their mental and physical distortions, but the result is somewhat schematic. Landreth's previous film, Ryan, is superior because Ryan Larkin was complex enough to justify Landreth's technique. Larkin is far more interesting than any character that Landreth has created from scratch.
Wallace and Gromit are bakers this time
Wallace and Gromit function the same way as classic comedy teams. Once a team's personalities are established, they are placed into different settings or occupations as the only way to add variety to their endeavors. The Marx Brothers were on an ocean liner, at a college, at the opera, at the races, etc. while remaining true to their characters. The Three Stooges spent time as bootleggers, exterminators, firemen, riveters, census takers, etc. while slapping each other silly. This time, Wallace and Gromit are bakers and they are surrounded by the expected mechanical gadgetry, a dastardly villain and a slapstick climax.

Once again, Wallace is a fool for love and blind to the threats that face him. Gromit, as usual, is smarter than Wallace and does what he can to protect Wallace from harm.

I think that The Wrong Trousers is still my favourite of the W&G half hours, but this one is satisfying. Wallace and Gromit have not hit a new peak, but neither have they disappointed. Having graduated to features with The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, it's nice to see them in a short again. Aardman is right to maintain that flexibility. Regardless of length, Wallace and Gromit continue to uphold the tradition of slapstick comedy.

For those of you in Toronto who would like to see these films, the program I saw today will be repeated on Friday, June 19 at 7 p.m. at the Cumberland Cinema, on Cumberland near Avenue Road.

1 comment:

jriggity said...

Nice reviews man!

and I agree completly with them..