Sunday, November 01, 2009

Fantastic Fest Screener: A Town Called Panic

There were going to be two here, but I couldn't get my other screener to play on my TV. Being that these two movies are European, the DVDs may be PAL, and since none of my DVD-playing devices will play PAL discs, that means using the computer, which hooks up to the TV through a less-than-ideal system: Laptop to router to SlingCatcher to TV/receiver. That worked well enough for one, but not the other, where the screen just filled with pink. I suppose I could watch the movie on the laptop, but I don't have my living room tricked out so that can watch movies on that.

Ideal, of course, would be watching it in Austin, at the Alamo Drafthouse during Fantastic Fest. The EFC guys I've talked to all recommend it, and maybe someday I will. I'm only half-joking when I say it's hard to do, because it conflicts with exciting baseball, but I also feel like I'd be kind of disloyal by going. Fantastic Fest started the same fall as the Brattle's Boston Fantastic Film Festival - perhaps even the same week - but it immediately blew up big while BFFF eventually sputtered out. That's just tremendously frustrating to me - Ned & company would book some great movies, and there would not be a whole lot of people there. Plus, I'd feel kind of like I was cheating on Fantasia - sure, they show a lot of the same movies, but also more Hollywood stuff. It wouldn't quite be selling out, but it strikes me as a step down in coolness.

Why yes, that is a bit of sour grapes... "I can't get out of my day job to head ot Austin for a festival full of nifty movies in cool venues, but it's probably lame anyway!" I think I'm using sour grapes properly there.

Panique au Village (A Town Called Panic)

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 23 October 2009 in Jay's Living Room (DVD via laptop & Slingcatcher)

A Town Called Panic hit me just right tonight; it might not have on another day. It is, you see, an extraordinarily silly animated film, and sometimes one just doesn't feel like silliness. Of course, those times may be when one needs it the most.

Just outside the title town, Cowboy (voice of Stéphane Aubier) and Indian (voice of Bruce Ellison) live with Horse (Vincent Patar). It's Horse's birthday, but they've forgotten, so they trick him into going into town on an errand - it doesn't take much convincing, as he's got a major crush on Madame Longrée (voice of Jeanne Balibar), the horse who runs the music school, while they order some bricks to build Horse a barbecue. Fifty bricks accidentally become fifty million, which, through a series of events that I presume are obvious, inevitably leads to problems with sea monsters and scientists.

Given that two of the main characters are horses who live side-by-side with other talking animals and sea monsters, it's little surprise that this film is animated. The style is a delightfully charming throwback, though: After a smoothly animated title sequence, the picture flips to mostly stop-motion, using toys that sometimes look to have been dug out of the creators' parents' attics. These aren't highly-articulated action figures, but minimally posable things that often have their feet grafted to an immobile base. Or, at least, they look that way - given how things tend to fly through the air, there's likely at least some digital wire removal going on, and the characters will often appear in poses that suggest that they're either more flexible than they first appeared or the filmmakers have built other models which share the same limited range of movement.

Full review at EFC.

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