What's Love Got to do With It?, manipulate Festival, Review

Rating (out of 5)
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Tobias Stretch (Unity); David O'Reilly (Please Say Something); Don Hertzfeldt (The Meaning of Life); Jeremy Clapin (Skhizein), Chris Shepherd (Dad's Dead), Adam Elliot (Brother); Will Anderson and Ainslie Henderson (Monkey Love Experiments).

A simply sublime evening of animation shorts climaxes with a Skype call to the men of the moment and a live connection to the BAFTA party down at Kensington Palace.

Edinburgh College of Art graduates Will Anderson and Ainslie Henderson are at the BAFTAs again - for the third year running. The Making of Longbird won in 2013, I Am Tom Moody was nominated last year, and this year they’ve done it again with Monkey Love Experiments (winner of Outstanding Contribution to Short Film at the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2014) – the winners will be announced on Sunday evening.

Unable to attend the manipulate Festival at the Traverse in person, due to this rather important subsequent engagement, it was left to a smartly suited Iain Gardner to introduce their selected programme of the animations that had inspired and excited them. Will and Ainslie had chosen six films by other animators and the evening’s entertainment was scheduled to end with their 2015 BAFTA nomination. It looked, on paper, like we were in for a thrilling evening – but it was actually a lot better than that!

It began with Unity by Tobias Stretch – a pulsating, rippling, flowing stream of brilliant colour and uncanny, soulful puppets over a background sound of penetrating choral music. David O’Reilly’s Please Say Something followed: a humorous, wry and knowing look at a relationship between a cat and mouse set at some point in the next century. Animation giant Don Hertzfeldt’s The Meaning of Life - a crazy portrayal of human evolution, projected beyond the present-day – brought us to the half-way point of the evening with no time yet to catch your breath and process the sheer skill and brilliance of ideas witnessed so far.

Next up was the film that contained perhaps the best idea of the night, Jeremy Clapin’s Skhizen that tells the story of Henry who has to adapt to living 91 centimetres from himself after being hit by a 150-ton meteorite – a stunning piece of work. Dad’s Dead by Chris Shepherd is a trip through a young man’s dark memories of friendship and betrayal and Brother by Adam Elliot, touching and simple, ended the evening’s selection of inspirational others.

Monkey Love Experiments provided the first climax of the evening. Clearly drawing on the experiments conducted by Harlow in the 50’s and 60’s, this black and white, live action animation had a distinctly Sixties character. Throwing up – intentionally or otherwise – some difficult questions about animals, humans, experiments and relationships, they also managed to seamlessly incorporate footage of the original moon landing within this technical masterpiece.

The second climax came when Iain Gardner successfully connected with Will and Ainslie via Skype, catching them browsing postcards of the Royal Family in the gift shop at Kensington Palace, ignoring the BAFTA party going on around them in order to answer questions from the manipulate audience.

The final climax came when, at the end of their Q&A, Ainslie introduced a clip of his latest animation - as yet unfinished. From only a tantalising minute or so, it’s clear he’s done it again, and this is what makes this pair so exciting: that they keep on coming up with new ideas and have the passion – not to mention formidable skill – to keep on producing work of the very highest quality. Will Anderson and Ainslie Henderson can surely now consider themselves to be up there with the animation giants – which is brilliant news for Scotland!