Sunday, November 09, 2008

Fears of the Dark

As much as I loved the raw, historically urgent, black and white animated tale of Persepolis, that film-going experience pales in comparison to this year's Fears of the Dark! I finally caught this film last night, at New York City's IFC Center, and it BLEW ME AWAY.

After seeing it, I realized how LONG it's been since I've been authentically transported to an inspiring new realm by a film. That realization was sad for me, because I tout myself as being much more of a feverish film fan usually. I suppose WALL-E had a similar effect on me, but I expected it to, because PIXAR has built such a beautiful reputation over the years, and their latest treat surpassed their last brilliant offering. What was surprising about Fears of the Dark was that it opened a whole new viewing experience for me, one that was refreshingly different from your typical CG loaded adrenaline-fest. Mind you, it has CG imagery, but it does an expert job of blending it with traditional methods of animation. The combination is graphically intoxicating. This film is both new and old in feel, and I love it for that. It feels classic despite its newness, and it evokes pure graphic poetry with its imagery. It's been a long time since I've seen visual storytelling on the screen this artful.

The film is a series of nightmarish short stories. Each story is book-ended by an ongoing narrative concerning demonic dogs and the film is punctuated by reflective comments by a crazed neurotic philosopher musing on the banalities of life. These moments are very French, and it's all very arty, but in an accessible and non-perplexing way. The short stories throughout the film all deal with fears in the broad sense of the word, not just campfire ghost stories.

The list of contributing graphic artists includes several European masters and a couple American masters of the craft. All the short stories in the film are brilliantly done which genuinely makes it hard to pick a favorite section. Included are amazing sequences by Richard McGuire and Charles Burns, two graphic artists I've loved for years. McGuire was a huge influence on me while I worked at Primal Screen studio and Burns has always been a cartoonist that's creeped me out in the best way possible. (The still at the beginning of this post illustrates his masterful ink lined sense of creepiness.) I recently saw an exhibit of Burns work here in NY, so his style has been on my mind a lot lately, so this film came at a perfect time.

All in all, I highly recommend this film if you're a fan of dark humor and horror stories or if you're a fan of any of the artists involved. The experience brought to mind the same thrills I got as a child by reading Edward Gorey's sinister strips or by watching Tim Burton's early, pre-fame animation sequences, namely Vincent. The opening to PBS's "MYSTERY!" series comes to mind as well, along with some of the creepy animation work of Rene Laloux.



David DeGrand said...

Hey Justin, I'm so jealous you've seen this movie! I saw the trailer online and immediately wanted to go see it but can't find a theater close by. I want to see it just for the Charles Burns sequence alone. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the film, no I REALLY want to see it!

Thanks for the comments as always on my blog and on Ice Cream People!

this just in said...

Oh man, I hope you get to see it when it comes to town. You'll love Charles Burns section! I think I might go see it again.

Vallath said...

I wish you'd blog more frequently and post some of your newer work. I check back often.. :-)

Ellis Nadler said...

can't wait