Article by Tristian Goik.
“Tales of the Night” is Michel Ocelot’s latest fairy tale adventure in blazing color and his first voyage into the stereoscopic dimension. A series of short stories, perhaps perfect for the educated child with a short attention span, the film is a panoply of world heritage. We are introduced to an actor, an actress, their director and their beloved owl as they sit and brainstorm new ideas for a play. A few frames of star-bursts out of a ridiculous machine, and each character is given new clothes for their roles. Ocelot takes a very… classical approach to his new 3rd dimension, which is both inspired and bound by theatrical set art and shadow puppetry. Regardless, you’ll be happy to find yourself falling into a triangular-shaped hole over and over and over again.
“The Magic Tom Tom” is an African tale, and has one of the best dance animation sequences I have seen in a while. (Mr. Ocelot is drawing on his wealth of experience from Kirikou). It must have been exhilarating to break down the drumbeats into key poses and still find a way to flail. “The Boy Who Never Lied” is a Tibetan tale, and it was the most interesting of all the vignettes. The actress forces you to engage by loudly wrestling with herself over whether or not to play such a “vile girl,” and you are forced to wonder what the hell she is going on about. (Pysch 101: preconditioning…) “The Architect’s Son” is a medieval tale, and by this point in the film Ocelot gets into the 3d-groove and loosens up with a few shock values on the z-scale. I have to confess I gave a (manly) shout at one point.
Finally, the Caribbean tale was the most mesmerizing and totally fulfilled my Ocelot-design fetish craving. The hallucinogenic pinks, oranges, and greens were perfect backdrops to the black silhouettes of the characters. (Did I mention they are all shadow puppets?) I don’t know how but you could tell each character apart even if they were layered black on black. Actually, it reminds me of the ‘visual distortions’ from Chris Marker’s film “Sans Soleil.” The videos were flat tri-tone neon images that on a still frame would not exactly make sense, and the visual cues came solely from the movement of the abstract colors themselves. This, I suppose, is exactly what I was supposed to learn from the ‘animation principles’ in my freshman year.
Another cute part of the film was the theater group’s discussion and research of the cultures for each play. A few drawings or photos would appear on their fancy computers and it adds a strong educational component. You might raise an eyebrow to this show-and-tell but I think it’s interesting to see how Ocelot himself must have researched. The French are so different from Americans, and there’s nothing like a foreign kids’ movie to point out obvious differences. (How many mom’s ran out of “Spirited Away”?) Sadly, “Les Contes de la Nuit” won’t be available to American audiences till early 2012. But just mark it down somewhere, and be sure to catch this SMORGASBORD of a good film!