Three films with an international flavor – a French film about Japanese mountaineers, an American studio release set in a mythical Southeast Asia and an anime by a Japanese master taking place largely in a virtual world – deserve lengths. looks in the race for the Oscar for animated feature film 2022.
The Summit of the Gods
It’s 2D, but “The Summit of the Gods” makes viewers feel its dizzying heights. The French film delves deeply into this desire to face dangerous mountains, and does so by showing, not by telling. This is something director Patrick Imbert investigated from the security of his studio.
âI read a lot about mountaineers and they all talk about this mysterious thing that gets them to do what they do. There are no words to say it. I tried to compare it with the creative approach. : if you ask me why I draw, I have no answer for you, I cannot live without doing it.
“I think it’s the same with these guys. The difference is that in drawing … you can get tendonitis,” he laughs.
“Summit” is no joke. It’s an adult drama that begins with a mystery – a reporter learns of a camera that could fix, once and for all, who was the first on top of Mount Everest – then probes the riddle deeper inside the world’s greatest climbers. The journalist is looking for the legendary Japanese climber who may have the answers.
Imbert’s hand-drawn animation articulates the characters beautifully, giving each their own unique physical vocabulary and body language. As much as possible avoiding what he calls “animation effects” – hallucinatory visuals that can detach the viewer from the reality of the film – he conveys the experience of climbing: dizziness, lethality.
By bypassing the discussion for scenes of climbing climbers advancing and portraying a character first observing, then falling into obsession, “Summit” achieves something perhaps profound: a visceral examination of this inexplicable urge. Even the quest for intrigue appears like a molehill next to it.
“I still don’t care who got to the top first. I really don’t care,” Imbert says. “It’s not a question of who reached it first. It’s something else.”
Raya and the last dragon
There are dragons, monsters, and authentic Southeast Asian cultural elements, but for the filmmakers of âRaya and the Last Dragon,â the key ingredient has always been confidence.
âIt’s all about the dragons and the dragon gem, which was a great visual embodiment of trust,â said co-director Don Hall of the mystical object whose destruction leads to global disaster and sparks off the quest for the heroine to restore it. For this, Raya (voiced by Kelly Marie Tran) needs the help of the last surviving dragon, Sisu (Awkwafina). Once the production landed on trust and reunification as key themes, the pieces fell into place.
âThis day has become like our before and after,â said co-director Carlos Lopez Estrada. âThis is how we presented it to all our employees: ‘It’s a film about trust.’ Every decision we make will support this idea. “
âWhat you don’t see is how the theme of trust is imbued with the way we made the film,â says co-writer Qui Nguyen. âIt happened during the pandemic, so everyone was working from home. Usually we’re in the same room; you can micromanage everything. Here you really had to trust the storyboard artists, the animators, the lighting designers, that we found them strengthened exponentially. They came back with some of the best work I’ve seen from the studio. “
This work led to something that stunned even Nguyen.
He says, âFor Halloween I was wearing a Shang-Chi costume and saw little Rayas running around. It stopped me dead. I was part of a pop culture moment where there were superheroes. Asians in this world. There were little girls running around that were Raya. My kid said, “Daddy, you did that.” “Don’t make me cry!”
“I don’t have to put on someone else’s skin and costume to be a superhero, and kids have thatâ¦ it’s the best reward I can have.”
“Belle” is “Beauty and the Beast” in the virtual age, with comments on covering IRL insecurities with online avatars as a shy girl turns into a singing cyber star. It is packed with extremely imaginative visuals expected from a great anime director (Oscar nominated Mamoru Hosoda). It’s also a musical, brought to life with songs that would fit any J-pop station. And it turns into the serious drama of child abuse.
There is a method to the madness in the colors of the rainbow. Hosoda says the hard turn is an expression of something he detected in the original version of the 18th century tale.
âIf you look at the nuances of history, it’s a very male-dominated society in which ideas of beauty are very restricted. This perception could be a form of violence lurking just below the surface,â a- he declared through a translator.
“In the movie it’s a much more literal portrayal of violence, but there is this idea that it’s hidden just below the surface.”
He says both sides of the Beast are clear even in the original, but “Beauty is very one-dimensional – [just] this visually perceived beauty. Beauty today is something that defines itself and how we think about it matters.
“So, just as the Beast has this duality, Beauty should also have this duality. And one of the ways of expressing it is strength. I think the strength she finds is quite beautiful.”
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