The Manipulate Festival concluded at the Traverse on Saturday night with a screening of eight animation films collectively entitled, Tilt Your Thinking: A Murder of Shorts.
First up was Marcel, King of Tervuren, by American animator Tom Schroeder. This six minute, beautifully painted film, narrated the tragic story of a rooster that really wanted to live – surviving bird flu, alcohol poisoning, sleeping pills and a bitter fight with his son Max. As the feathers flew, the colours exploded and Marcel triumphed. The appearance of a fox peering through the pastel-shaded hedges in the final scene, however, hinted that poor Marcel’s trials were not over yet.
The Banquet of the Concubine from Hefang Wei of Switzerland was an intriguing and polished 13 minute warning about the abuse of power, told with subtitles. It is the year 746 and emperor Li fails to turn up at a banquet held in honour of his favourite concubine. She learns that he is busy dallying with another and becomes progressively more drunk, more fearful and more bitter as the evening wears on. It is a shockingly unhappy ending for the loyal servant who happens to be late delivering her lychees!
Lonely Bones was a dark and disturbing ten minutes by French animator Rosto. This was a silent film with animated elements, shot mainly in black and white, shifting through occasional green and sepia tones. Reminiscent of some early zombie movies, this was very much in the horror genre with a narrative that was unsettling and uncertain.
Gloria Victoria was a moving and magnificent seven minutes by Theodor Ushev from Canada. Against a rousing classical music track that built in momentum, this exploding animation rolled through the Russian front to Dresden and Guernica, depicting the relentless movement of reapers and vampires while ominous black birds flew overhead and the fields below became graves that burnt and smouldered.
Like Rabbits, by Osman Cerfon of France, brought a little light relief, albeit with its own brand of bleak melancholia. A fish-headed man pursues some elusive fun at a fairground, distributing bubbles of doom that blow unwittingly from his doleful mouth. Illustrated in faded colours, it depicted a jaded humanity with a wry humour.
Next up was Subconscious Password by Chris Landreth of Canada. Clever in concept and execution, this mix of film and animation depicted a man who bumps into a friend he hasn’t seen in years and cannot remember his name. Sliding into his subconscious mind, we watch his superego hosting a gameshow: the prize is the memory of that elusive name. James Joyce, William S Burroughs and Yoko Ono, among others, pop up to give him clues. After failing to identify the name ‘John’ from such hints as Travolta, Wayne, Lennon, Kennedy and others, he does finally make it in the end.
Una Furtiva Lagrima was a three minute work of genius set to the operatic romanza of the same name, sung by a fish. From the market, onto the weighing scales, in a shopping bag on the back seat of a car, in the fridge, on the chopping board and finally in the frying pan, this mournful fish sings its own moving requiem. This was inspired and, without doubt, the star piece of the evening.
The Maggot Feeder marked the end of the programme: a 16 minute animation by Estonian Priit Tender that told an ancient Chukchi folk tale. This was a sinister story of a man who slaughtered seals in a brutal, careless and bloody fashion and decided to kill his wife because she was unable to have children. Fortunately, there was a happy ever after ending. Black and white animated characters with real human faces were used to startling effect, as was the use of a brilliant red for the blood oozing from the butchered animals. Simple techniques that delivered full impact.
These eight shorts represented a taste of some of the very best animation from across the globe: the visual equivalent of lining up a row of cocktails distilled into shot-sized glasses to intensify their flavour, and then knocking them back in quick succession. Each little jolt was memorable - some possibly more suited to one’s particular taste than others – but cumulatively, the effect was a slight feeling of dizziness and the strong sensation of wanting maybe just one more for the road…