“Welcome. You are now inside of this painting,” announces Lola, by way of introduction to the captivating animated film The Painting.
Reminiscent of playwright Luigi Pirandello’s “Six Characters in Search of an Author,” Director Jean-François Laguionie (who co-wrote the script with Anik Leray) gives us a world of artists’ subjects, some finished (called Allduns), some not quite finished (Halfies), and Sketchies, who haven’t made it past the sketch stage.
It’s a class-conscious society. The painter has disappeared, and the haughty Allduns (who scoff at the Halfies and Sketchies as “disgusting”) have decided it is their right to live in the castle, rule over the Halfies and enslave the Sketchies.
A forbidden romance between Halfie Claire (voice of Kamali Minter) and Alldun Ramo (voice of Michael Sinterniklaas) inspires a road trip in search of the painter, in hopes he will finish the job. Claire’s Halfie friend Lola (voice of Eden Riegel) and Sketchy Quill (voice of Vinnie Penna) accompany Ramo; Claire goes on her own.
They find that the fearful Hidden Forest beyond the castle has strange flowers that appear to have jaws that bite and claws that scratch, but are actually quite welcoming, even soothing.
They find the painter’s studio, full of cobwebs and looking like it hasn’t been used in years. A charming Goya-esque Maja named Florence (voice of Mary Elizabeth McGlynn) stretched out on a couch and a grouchy Self-Portrait (voice of Steve Blum) share the place.
“Do you have any idea how difficult it is to have feelings that are not your own?” he complains. “I just wanna be me!”
Florence suggests the Painter might be in Venice, so off they go and end up in the middle of the wild Carnevale celebration.
The film is French (and was nominated for a 2012 César award); it has been nicely dubbed into English by Stephanie Sheh. It also boasts a charming score by Pascal Le Pennec.
The animation here is outstanding, with work reminiscent of Chagall, Matisse and Modigliani: the film could be used with art students as well as animated film buffs.
Do the characters ever find the painter? I don’t know, because the film was not screened for critics and the screener they gave me stopped ten minutes before the end.
But from what I saw, I’d say move over, Pixar: GKIDS may be moving in on your originality territory.
Photo credits: GKIDS