Every Sunday, from July 10 to September 4, Meridian Space will be screening remarkable animation films from all over the world.
For this summer screening series, we have cherry-picked some splendid samples of the genre, spanning a half-century, including both classics as well as many unusual or lesser-known works by such masters as the Brothers Quay, Jan Svankmajer, Bill Plympton, Hayao Miyazaki or David Lynch.
And to make things even better, we are partnering up with the amazing people from Rager Pie. Each of these double screenings will feature special “surprise pies,” sweet and savory, created for the occasion. Every Sunday this summer, come discover their delicious contributions, while feasting your eyes on some of the most amazing animation films ever made.
– The Tale of Princess Kaguya (Isao Takahata, 2013)
– Paprika (Satoshi Kon, 2001)
– Uproar in Heaven (Wan Laiming, 1964)
– Rabbits (David Lynch, 2002)
• 07.31: NO SCREENINGS
– The Old Lady and the Pigeons (Sylvain Chomet, 1997)
– Idiots and Angels (Bill Plympton, 2010)
– Spring and Chaos (Shōji Kawamori, 1996)
– Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy? (Michel Gondry, 2012)
– Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (Hayao Miyazaki, 1984)
– Waltz with Bashir (Ari Folman, 2008)
– Nezha Conquers the Dragon King (Wang Shuchen, Xu Jingda, 1979)
– Jan Svankmajer selected early works
– Wolf Children (Mamoru Hosoda, 2012)
– Fantastic Planet (René Laloux, 1973)
About the films
• Day of the Crows
(Le jour des corneilles)
2012, France-Belgium-Luxemburg-Canada, 96’
Boy lives in the heart of the forest, raised by his father Courge, a tyrannical giant who reigns triumphant and prevents his son from exploring beyond limited boundaries. Ignorant about the ways of men, the boy grows up wild, with the placid ghosts who haunt the forest his only company. That is until the day that he is forced to go to the nearest village, where he mets young Manon. At her side, he discovers that love exists. From then on he won’t cease to search for the place where his father’s love for him is hiding. Gorgeously drawn and animated by one of France’s rising stars of the field.
• Brothers Quay: Selected Works 1979-2003
The twin Brothers Quay are Stephen and Timothy Quay. They were born near Philadelphia in a town with a large European immigrant population, which fuelled their interest in European culture. They studied at the Royal College of Art in London. Funded largely by the BFI and by Channel 4, the Quay Brothers have produced a unique body of work and have established the puppet film as a serious adult art form. These works, usually non-narrative, filter a huge range of literary, musical, cinematic and philosophical influences through their own utterly distinctive sensibility. Many of them draw on a variety of Austrian, Polish and Czechoslovakian sources.
• The Tale of Princess Kaguya
(Kaguya-hime no Monogatari)
2013, Japan, 137’
Found inside a shining stalk of bamboo by an old bamboo cutter and his wife, a tiny girl grows rapidly into an exquisite young lady. The mysterious young princess enthralls all who encounter her – but ultimately she must confront her fate, the punishment for her crime.
This film, based on the famous “Tale of the Bamboo Cutter,” is Takahata’s fifth film for Studio Ghibli, and is widely considered one of the most beautiful the studio ever produced. Critics have praised a work “boasting narrative depth, frank honesty, and exquisite visual beauty… a modern animated treasure with timeless appeal,” “exquisitely drawn with both watercolor delicacy and a brisk sense of line.” (NYT)
2006, Japan, 91’
In the near future, a revolutionary new psychotherapy treatment has been invented: based on a special device, it enables the therapist to enter people’s dreams and explore their unconscious thoughts to cure them. In the wrong hands, however, the technology could allow the user to completely annihilate a dreamer’s personality while they are asleep. Before the government can pass a bill authorizing the use of such advanced psychiatric technology, one of the prototypes is stolen from the lab. Renowned scientist Dr. Atsuko Chiba, enters the dream world under her exotic alter-ego, code name “PAPRIKA,” in an attempt to discover who is behind the plot to undermine the new invention.
“Following its own brand of logic, Paprika is an eye-opening mind trip that rarely makes sense but never fails to dazzle. The film weaves in and out of dream worlds seamlessly and presents an offbeat puzzle of a fantasy.” (RT)
• Uproar in Heaven
(Da Nao Tian Gong)
1965, China, 114’
Uproar in Heaven tells the story of Sun Wukong, the Monkey King, based on the earlier episodes of the Chinese novel Journey to the West. It features stunning animation and a characteristically Chinese aesthetics, as its tunes and percussions are strongly influenced by Peking opera traditions.
The film was created at the height of the Chinese animation industry in the 1960s, and received numerous awards both in China and abroad — becoming probably the most famous Chinese animated film in the process. To many, it is the symbol of a golden age in the field of Chinese animation.
2002, US, 50’
“In a nameless city deluged by a continuous rain… three rabbits live with a fearful mystery.” The tag-line gives but a rough idea of the otherwise extraordinarily bizarre nine episodes of this surrealistic “horror sitcom,” which revolves around the gloomy daily life of three humanoid rabbits. Disjointed conversations, bizarre soliloquies, and a nightmarish atmosphere — we are without a doubt in the very depths of David Lynch’s subterranean world.
• The Old Lady and the Pigeons
(La vieille dame et les pigeons)
1997, Canada-France-Belgium, 21’
While American popcorn-eating tourists wobble around Paris and pigeons are too fat to fly, a starving French gendarme is desperate for food. Watching the birds feast on cakes and crumbs brought by an old lady, he slowly realizes that his best chance of survival is to dress up like a pigeon and try to trick the old lady into feeding him as well. The old lady doesn’t seem to suspect anything and serves the oversized man-bird all kinds of food in her home, and while he slowly gets fatter and fatter, the line between man and bird is getting blurry. And when he at last finds out what he has gotten himself into, it’s far too late to turn back…
This first animated work by the director of the famed Triplets of Belleville (2003) won him a BAFTA, the Grand Prize at the 1997 Annecy International Animated Film Festival, as well as an Oscar nomination for best animated short film.
• Idiots and Angels
2010, US, 78’
Plympton offers a moral fable with his own surreal touch in this dark comedy. Tough guy Angel wakes up one morning to discover his body has begun to match his name — a pair of wings has sprouted from his back. Angel doesn’t care to have wings and is annoyed by the ridicule they inspire among his drinking buddies, so he cuts them off, only to find they quickly grow back. Even worse, Angel learns the wings have their own moral compass, and while he’s a bitter and self-centered man, the wings are forcing him to be benevolent in a way that hardly suits him. Angels And Idiots tells its story without dialogue but does include songs from such artists as Tom Waits, Moby, Pink Martini and Nicole Renaud.
• Spring and Chaos
(Ihatov Gensou: Kenji no Haru)
1996, Japan, 51’
Spring and Chaos (also known as Kenji’s Spring) is a unique attempt to visually portray the eccentric, magical world of Kenji Miyazawa, one of Japan’s best-loved poets and author of Night on the Galactic Railroad (which spawned the animated feature of the same name). Just like the poet himself, Spring and Chaos is touching, moving, and not just a little bizarre on occasion.
Kenji Miyazawa did many things in his brief but intense life—he was a geologist, a teacher, a scientist and a farmer—but his legacy to the world was within his stories and poetry. This film is beautifully and brilliantly animated, using everything from computer animation to line drawings and watercolor, to pay tribute to Miyazawa’s world.
• Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy?
(Conversation animée avec Noam Chomsky)
2013, France, 90’
From Michel Gondry, the innovative director of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Science of Sleep, comes this unique animated documentary on the life of controversial MIT professor, philosopher, linguist, anti-war activist and political firebrand Noam Chomsky. Through complex, lively conversations with Chomsky and brilliant illustrations by Gondry himself, the film reveals the life and work of the father of modern linguistics while also exploring his theories on the emergence of language. The result is not only a dazzling, vital portrait of one of the foremost thinkers of modern times, but also a beautifully animated work of art.
• Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind
(Kaze no Tani no Naushika)
1984, Japan, 117’
Taking place in a post-apocalyptic world in the far future, the film tells the story of Nausicaä, the young princess of the Valley of the Wind. She becomes embroiled in a struggle with Tolmekia, a kingdom that tries to use an ancient weapon to eradicate a jungle of mutant giant insects, and attempts to stop the Tolmekians from enraging these creatures. Widely acclaimed for its story, themes, characters and animation, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is frequently ranked as one of the greatest animated films of all time.
• Waltz with Bashir
2008, Israel-France, 90’
Ari Folman’s animated, quasi-documentary follows the filmmaker’s emotional attempt to decipher the horrors that unfolded one night in September of 1982, when Christian militia members massacred more than 3,000 Palestinian refugees in the heart of Beirut. Folman was one of those soldiers, but nearly 20 years after the fact, his memories of that night remain particularly hazy. After hearing an old friend recall a vivid nightmare in which he is pursued by ferocious dogs, Folman and his friend conclude that the dream must somehow relate to that fateful mission during the first Lebanon War. When Folman realizes that his recollections regarding that period in his life seem to have somehow been wiped clean, he travels the world to interview old friends and fellow soldiers from the war. Later, as Folman’s memory begins to emerge in a series of surreal images, he begins to uncover a truth about himself that will haunt him for the rest of his days.
“A wholly innovative, original, and vital history lesson, with pioneering animation, Waltz With Bashir delivers its message about the Middle East in a mesmerizing fashion.” (RT)
• Nezha Conquers the Dragon King
(Nezha Nao Hai)
Shuchen Wang, Jingda Xu
1979, China, 105’
This animated feature from mainland China tells the story of a little boy whose ostensible father is the ruling monarch. The boy was miraculously born fully grown, from a flower which itself sprang from an egg. His special nature makes him favored by a powerful god, and this alliance comes to his aid when it is most needed. The little boy gets on the wrong side of the evil Dragon King who rules the Eastern Sea, and has to make use of all his powers to defeat him.
A true animation gem graced with a wonderful music score.
• The Collected Shorts of Jan Švankmajer: Early Years Vol. 1
Czech director Jan Švankmajer is one of the most celebrated animators in the world. His dark and surrealistic art greatly influenced many other artists, such as Terry Gilliam or the Brothers Quay. After studying art and puppetry in Prague, Švankmajer worked for many years in theatres, and this theatrical experience durably marked his stop-motion films. His works are quite macabre, and often twist normal events and objects to give them subtly horrific and surreal overtones, while preserving a weird sense of humour. Among his best known works are the feature films Alice (1988), Faust (1994), Conspirators of Pleasure (1996), Little Otik (2000) and Lunacy (2005), a surreal comic horror based on two works of Edgar Allan Poe and the life of Marquis de Sade. His films have been called “as emotionally haunting as Kafka’s stories.” (NYT)
• Wolf Children
(Ōkami Kodomo no Ame to Yuki)
2012, Japan, 117’
College student Hana falls in love with another student, who turns out to be a werewolf. They soon give birth to two werewolf children. At first, the family quietly lives in the city trying to hide their wolf heritage, but when her husband suddenly dies, Hana makes the decision to move to the rural countryside where her husband grew up to raise her children on her own.
“An odd story, told in a one-of-a-kind style that feels equal parts sentimental, somber and strange,” (LAT) this film is a fascinating and poetic take on the usual tropes of parenting — from the difficulty of letting go, to the worry about whether one’s children will find their place in the world.
• Fantastic Planet
(La planète sauvage – Divoká planeta)
1973, France-Czechoslovakia, 72’
This cutout stop-motion allegorical film, based on a novel by Stefan Wul, tells the story of human beings living on a strange planet dominated by giant humanoid aliens who consider them animals and slaves. One of the slaves escapes from his master, and with the help of a mental advancement device, he starts to instigate a slave revolt.
Fantastic Planet is recognisable for its surreal, psychedelic imagery, created by French writer and artist Roland Topor, who was the production designer and co-writer of the film. It has been praised as “an animated epic that is by turns surreal and lovely, fantastic and graceful.” (RT)