Thursday, May 22, 2014

Short Peace

Plan A: See Short Peace during its first of two showtimes, stay up as late as it takes to write a review so that people can see it in time to opt into the second. Unfortunately, some technical problem cancelled the first screening, meaning there was no huge rush to get this written, especially since Eleven Arts doesn't seem to be doing a VOD release and the August home video release hasn't started showing up on the shopping sites yet. I'm just glad I got to see it; it was one where I got emailed a press release only to find there was no Boston date, leading me to wonder if was going to have to figure out a way to get it booked myself. Fortunately, the Brattle is pretty good about booking anime releases.

I actually saw about half of this movie at Fantasia last year; both "Combustible" and "Possessions" played as part of the "Far East Fragments" program, and I must admit, I'm really kind of ashamed of how I let short programs like that slip in general; I didn't write nearly as much about the ones I saw at Fantasia or the sci-fi fest as I wanted to. I'm going to try and do better in the future.

Short Peace

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 13 May 2014 in the Brattle Theatre #2 (special engagement, digital)

Studios and exhibitors should find a way to get short films on movie screens more often. Individually, they're often great, compact little stories, and a ticket that gets you a handful of them for ten bucks can come across as pretty good value. Unfortunately, it seems like the only time that happens in America is with the annual Oscar nominee showcase and some very uneven horror collections. Fortunately, Japan will occasionally fill in the gap with an animated anthology, in this case one spearheaded by Akira and Steamboy director Katsuhiro Otomo. It's kind of short, just over an hour, but there's nothing close to a dud on the bunch.

In fact, even the intro directed by Koji Morimoto is a fairly strong segment. As is often the case with these "wrapper" bits, it has another purpose that supersedes telling a complete story, easing the audience into animation and getting them excited to see many different things in different styles. Rather than create a scenario that explains the rationale for multiple stories and introduces them, Morimoto does it emotionally, sending Mai (voice of Haruna Fuka) into a crowded, futuristic landscape on a bright quest with a poppy soundtrack that leads to a bunch of transformations that prime the audience for just how malleable an animated world can be. It's just a few minutes, but really sets the mood.

I actually saw the first, "Possessions" both last at Fantasia festival last summer and as part of the Oscar nominee package, and I am still impressed by this story based on a historical belief in Japan that objects can gain souls and trick people after a hundred years. "Possessions" earned that nomination; director Shuhei Morita and his crew give their wandering handyman protagonist (who takes shelter in an isolated storage shed during a rainy night) a hint of papercraft in his design, along with a wonderfully distinct personality: The solemnity of a samurai and the eagerness of a maker upon discovering fine materials. It takes a bit of edge off what could be a simple scary story, but still impresses when the supernatural elements come into play.

Full review at EFC

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