Invention of Love

Invention of Love was made by Andrey Shushkov in 2010. It’s here because some of our viewers like animated movies and because we can see the clear influence of the animation technique by Lotte Reiniger. While wanting to link to our article on The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1922), we noticed the Avenue had never published such an article. Truly a shame, which is why we’ll first post a clip of said movie:

Do check out the rest on dvd, it’s well worth your money. And now back to the 21st century, with Invention of Love:

The Thing (Pingu version)

Not the highly anticipated – okay, maybe not – Top 10 movies of 2011 for two very good reasons (1. I suddenly had to finish an assignment and 2. One of the movies is on my digicorder and that’s blocking). The top 10 will be scheduled for 20 January and, in an attempt to take all the anticipation away, the N°1 will be posted earlier.

So what’s today’s plan then? Well, nothing less than an exciting remake. You see, these days remakes seem all the rage: while Cronenberg’s The Fly 2 wasn’t exactly received with open arms by Fox, he is planning Eastern Promises 2 and Ridley Scott wants to do something with Blade Runner again. And that’s just the example of two directors.

The Thing also got two remakes recently. There’s that one movie we don’t really feel like discussing here – much like a lot of reviewers didn’t seem to think the 1951 The Thing From Another World was worth mentioning as the actual “original” movie – and then there’s this: The Thing once more, but now starring Pingu:

And, because we’re really into movies, here‘s the Behind the Scenes documentary.

Fluffy McCloud

Another short movie today and this time it’s Conor Finnegan’s graduate film. Fluffy McCloud stars a cloud and is a “short film about man’s misunderstanding and mixed relationship with mother nature”. Which sounds a lot more serious than the film actually is…

FLUFFY MC CLOUD from conorfinnegan on Vimeo.

The Ballad of Mary Slade

Today we return with a short movie, it’ll only take four minutes of your time and it’s well worth it. Depending on your computer, either the Avenue’s menu or part of the movie won’t show up. In case of the latter, click on it to see it in full.

The director, Robin Fuller, describes The Ballad of Mary Slade as follows: “Following the death of a young woman, the tragic story of her life and eventual demise slowly unfolds as the insects that consume her decaying body become actors in the fateful retelling of her downfall.”


Panique au village

Panique au village (translated as A Town Called Panic) has been turned into a movie. This Belgian animation film brings you 75 minutes of madness. Plasticine madness. Cowboy, Indian and Horse live together in a house. It’s Horse’s birthday but Cowboy and Indian have forgotten this. They lure Horse away and start working on a wonderful birthday present, a barbecue made of bricks. Sadly instead of 50 bricks they buy a lot more. These may come in handy when their house is destroyed, but every night someone comes to steal the newly-built house. Can Horse and his friends catch the thieves? Will the gorgeous piano teacher fall in love with Horse? See the movie if you want to find out.

Panique au village is lots of fun, but the tempo is so high it’s like watching an ADHD movie. So much happens at such a high speed it’s impossible to watch all of it and sometimes you desperately want to get a breath. Nevertheless, it’s refreshing to see such a lot of madness. They clearly didn’t care too much about a convincing plot, which is why (by the middle of the film) you don’t have trouble accepting the plot line of some wacky scientists who’ve invented a giant penguin with the sole use of throwing gigantic snowballs at animals in snowfree regions.

There is also a series of A Town Called Panic shorts, which you can find on YouTube. The movie is still playing in Belgium (in a French and a Dutch version – to please both sorts of Belgians) and has also been programmed at some international film festivals. Keep an eye open for it, if you don’t mind watching some wacky humour. Pingu on acid.

Here’s the international trailer:


P.S. Here’s a short clip from the film. As all of them are in French or Dutch, I chose one where the language doesn’t really matter. Here’s Steven’s breakfast. If you’d like to see more extracts, follow this link.


One doesn’t need much to be eccentric: a slightly odd name does the trick. Though I do know some girls who have a peculiar name and are quite stylish and content, a lot of them suffer because of their name. Especially the ones with a name that sounds very much like a regular name but is still different. (Between you and me, that was the basis for the novel I’m working on at the moment.)
Lo and behold, up pops a movie with a similar idea…

No, it’s not Caroline. The protagonist of Henry Selick‘s latest film is Coraline. She is an adventurous girl who’s just moved to a new place together with her mum and dad. Both write books and brochures on gardening. They’re not tremendously happy with it, but it pays the rent.
Coraline, their only daughter, is extremely bored as she can’t go out when it rains and has to play inside the spooky old house. Not that rainless days help much: the neighbours are either eccentric (two old ladies who used to work as actresses and have poodles as housemates, a former circus artist who worked with mice…) or annoying (Wybie, a boy roughly Coraline’s age, whose grandmother warned him never to enter Coraline’s house).

That is why we can’t be sure if Coraline dreamt there’s a small door leading to a parallel universe or if it really happened. The good news is the parallel world also contains the same people Coraline knows in reality. The slightly less good news: they’re dolls and have buttons for eyes.

This somehow evolves into an animation film with an evil witch and a scary world, but I’ll try not to spoil it, in case you still want to see this film. I do want to tell you there is a lot of adult humour in this film and I don’t mean the sort of grown-up jokes you get in Shrek movies: the passage to the other world looks remarkably like a womb (that hasn’t been a plot element since No(r)way of Life) and there are a couple of castration jokes the youngest ones in the audience won’t get either.
Another fairly adult nodge kids wouldn’t get (and nor would I if I hadn’t read about this on the internet): Mr. Bobinsky, the former circus artist, is wearing the Russian Hero Medal for Service at the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster. This medal is unique as it is the only medal in the world awarded for participation in a nuclear clean up. That might explain his skin complexion and odd behavior.

That makes Coraline a film both young and old can enjoy. Even I could, despite not really liking Dakota Fanning (still, didn’t have to look at her face) who voiced Coraline and loathing John Hodgman (who got to do the voice for Coraline’s father and is one of the unfunniest one-trick-pony comedians out there). I was almost impressed with the man’s singing voice (which sounded like the They Might Be Giants singer), but the credits told me a TMBG song had been used in the film, so to this day I still can’t find a positive thing about Hodgman.
Other voices include Teri Hatcher (Coraline’s mother) and British comedy duo French and Saunders (as the bubbly actresses).

Coraline is the first stop-motion animated feature to be shot entirely in 3-D and it looks good (even in 2D, by the way). It constantly moves from nightmarishly awful to hauntingly beautiful, even though adults like us probably won’t be scared by the film anymore. (Instead, they’ll love the gothic atmosphere – well, if they’re so inclined…)

Up to this point, Selick’s career mostly profited when Tim Burton was around (think Nightmare Before Christmas). I never really liked what I’d seen of James and the Giant Peach and didn’t feel tempted to watch the rest and have me proven wrong. Coraline “is” Selick without Burton’s influence and it’s a fairly good film. Some of it was clearly there to boast about the 3D and so it’s a bit annoying, but overall it’s a lovely film.


P.S. More animation on Sunday, when I’ll review Panique au Village.
P.P.S. Coraline is still playing in Belgian cinemas right now, but in the U.S. the DVD was released last week. The two disc special edition and Blu-Ray edition contain a digital copy which will expire in a year. There are other features too, but I’m sorry that I wrote that sentence with an expiry date of seven seconds, so it’ll be deleted by the time you get to this sentence. So there you go… it’s a nice film which you shouldn’t buy: wait two years till it’s on television, then you can record it for eternity.

(images: cinebel)


Today it’s time to review Renaissance, an animated movie from 2006 that had been lying on my shelves for quite a while before I finally got round to watching it. Renaissance is a French movie directed by Christian Volckman. I stress that as the version I bought (quite cheaply at Play) was the dubbed version. Like Persepolis, it’s not always easy to choose between the French and the English version. You may not get Iggy Pop here, but the English version features voices by Daniel Craig (as the main character), Ian Holm, Jonathan Pryce, Romola Garai (18-year-old Briony from Atonement) and Catherine McCormack. Makes you almost opt for the dubbed version instead. Like Italian movies from the 60s and 70s (where the sound was post-recorded for economic reasons), I also tolerate dubbed versions for animated movies… it’s not as if there was an ‘original’ version to begin with. But this brings me to my main criticism of the film – I know, I haven’t even spoken about the story and I’m already criticising it: the English dub is not the clearest version there’s ever been. It took me a couple of sentences to figure out whether I was listening to French or English and after a while, I decided to give my ears a rest and switched on the subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing.

Maybe now is a good time to start talking about the story. Renaissance is set in futuristic Paris. The year is 2054 and Karas, a detective whose actions outweigh his words, is asked to find a missing scientist. This scientist (young, beautiful and talented Ilona) was last seen arguing with his older sister Bislane at a seedy nightclub. Karas tries to find out whether her recent work – she was working on a cure for progeria – had anything to do with her abduction while sparks begin to appear between him and Bislane.
Paris in the year 2054 looks futuristic enough, mainly in the odd architecture and the oversized tv sets which boast commercial messages. It’s not the first sci-fi movie to feature gigantic tv sets blasting out slightly ominous commercials. Renaissance actually prides itself in looking up to a gigantic sci-fi classic, Ridley Scott‘s Blade Runner. Another influence the makers often mention is the work of James Ellroy, who combines city life (in Ellroy’s case LA, in Volckman’s Paris) with dirt and film noir elements.
Most classic film noirs were made in black and white, which brings us to the look of Renaissance. The movie is shot in black and white, with a couple of exceptions. The drawings made by a character are in colour. I see why this was done, but I found it disturbing (even if it made me remind movies like Paprika). It is perhaps not a bad idea to mention how the animation was achieved. It all started way back in 1996, when Volckman directed the short movie Maaz (which can also be found on the English dvd). Like Andy Serkis in Lord of the Rings (Gollum, if you suck at sticking actors to their characters), computers noticed the 3D movement of actors and used that to create an animated look. Maaz was still in colour, but Renaissance went one step further. The makers had heard of black and white animation that deleted all the grey scales in between those two spectres and loved the idea for their upcoming movie. The result is what can be described as truly a black and white movie. Occasionally that – especially combined with the unclear dialogue – hurts the realism of the movie, but overall it helps to make Renaissance look different from other movies.

Renaissance has a good plot, but there’s not much to drag it over to an exceptional level. It’s good, but rarely does it get beyond that point. Which makes you focus even more on the film’s gimmick of using only black and white. I loved the look of the film and I also loved how the makers managed to include influences from their favourites into their own movie, without becoming too much of a copycat.

As for the English dvd, I already mentioned the short movie that was the origin of Renaissance. I found Maaz attempting to look weird without offering anything extra. The result is a disappointing 3/10. More interesting is a “making of” documentary which lasts 26 minutes and talks about the way the movie was created and the film’s influences.

All in all I often find myself interested in dystopian movies, but rarely can they live up to my expectation. To a large extent, Renaissance can. The result is a proud 7 out of 10.

A Matter of Loaf and Death

Wallace and Gromit have opened a new bakery, Top Bun, and business is booming, not least because a deadly Cereal Killer has murdered all the other bakers in town. Gromit is worried that they may be the next victims, but Wallace does not care, as he has fallen head over heels in love with Piella Bakewell, former star of the Bake-O-Lite bread commercials. So Gromit is left to run things on his own, when he would much rather be getting better acquainted with Piella’s lovely pet poodle, Fluffles.

Wallace and Gromit are back in the form that suits them best: a 30-minute special. You may remember from my Were-rabbit review I didn’t think Wallace’s character strong enough for a feature-length movie. A Matter of Loaf and Death, the brand new special the BBC will air on Christmas Day, does not change its winning formula: once again versatile dog Gromit has to save the day while owner Wallace has no clue as to how deep in trouble he is.

Just like any baker wants to know how many raisins you can stick in one loaf of bread, the brand new Wallace and Gromit tries to include as many puns and references as possible into this “who-doughnut” (that’s +1 for Park and c°). From the name of their bakery (Top Bun) to a dough-based Ghost pastiche (surely “pastry-che”?), the Aardman studios managed to stay just underneath the overkill bar of puns. The result is half an hour full of flavour I managed to stomach more than Wallace & Gromit’s movie (which, by the way, I liked).

Only the explosion sequence didn’t seem so convincing to me: it looked like a cold digital effect. The rest is a cleverly built-up story which manages to tie all the loose ends and include all the plotlines and locations more than once.

BBC One will air A Matter of Loaf and Death on Christmas Day at 8.30pm (English time).


I wish I could write a lengthy new review, but you see, there’s a writers’ strike going on and we can’t do too much new material. However, us writers are allowed to warm up old material, which comes in pretty handy as we’ve just witnessed the end of 2007 and it’s high time for our annual check in the rear view mirror.

It’s also pretty handy because I never got round to what ended up as my favourite movie of the year: Persepolis.

Persepolis is an animated feature based on Marjane Satrapi‘s comic (which she based on her own life). Marji grew up in Iran and witnessed the many changes the country had to endure. Her parents wanted to shield her as much as they could, which is why Marjane spent several years in Europe.

Does that sound weapy? It shouldn’t: despite the occasionally heavy tone Persepolis has many scenes which will have you laugh louder than you’d expected.

The movie even looks like a comic because most of it (apart from a couple of scenes in contemporary Europe) is drawn in black and white. And because sometimes the images look larger than life. Take for example the still that’s embellishing the top of this article: contrary to what some may think, Iranian women don’t look as bent as that.

Little Marjane is a bit of a rebel, which apparently runs in the family, as her grandmother always told her to be straight and sincere, no matter what the consequences. This, combined with the permissive attitude of her parents, often lands Marjane into trouble. Even if she doesn’t care.One of the funnier scenes is when a police car chases her because she’s running after a bus. Marjane is told to stop because running causes her behind to move, which is impudent. Reply: “Well, then stop staring at my ass.”

If you like that joke, you’ll love Persepolis. Even if some of the scenes are so stylish the style gets in the way of the story, most of it is so genuinely emotional or funny, Persepolis has no trouble outshing the rest of 2007’s movies. That the movie version stayed so personal is because Satrapi directed it herself, together with Vincent Peronnaud.

The cast (read: people with voices) consists of Chiara Mastroianni (a name you’ll keep linking to “Eye of the Tiger” after you’ve seen the movie) and Cathérine Deneuve. Depending on whether you watch the French version the grandmother will be voiced by either Danielle Darrieux or Gena Rowlands. However, the English dub manages to leave you more starstruck as Iggy Pop and Sean Penn also gave their voice to a character.

But do not doubt this for a moment: the true star of Persepolis is Marjane Satrapi, whether she’s animated or not.