Monday, August 15, 2011

Le roi et l'oiseau

A precursor for many films and inspiration for many filmmakers, Le Roi et l'Oiseau (int'l title: The King and the Mockingbird; more appropriate would have been the literal translation, The King and the Bird) is not merely a heritage object; it says things that many other films do not, it brings to life characters that appear stilted even in live-action movies, and it moves with a fluidity that is remarkable and typical of a good animated movie.

Fluidity does not only belong to the storyline and editing; it also belongs to the brilliant animation work done, especially considering that it's traditional 2D work and not 3D. In the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale extract, when the chimney sweep helps the shepherdess come down a ladder, the movement of the hips of the shepherdess is a sight to watch: and compared with the precedent climbing down movement of the sweep, a highly instructive lesson as to how carefully observed life has to be to create a good work of art. Sustained by the music and more of excellent animation work (the King has no rivals in all the animation work I've ever seen), the film also, atypically for an animation film, attains greater consistency by not introducing too many characters. Yes, the finale has a bevy of carnivores, but they are more a chorus rather than an assortment of tricks.

A much more interesting feeling that one gets is that the film is not only an attack on unenlightened monarchy, but an attack on any kind of totalitarian institution. The film attacks, much more snidely than Yann Jouette's brilliant Berni's Doll, which seems to have taken the baton and carried it forward, all sorts of assembly-line work: it is worth noting that not only there are a thousand statues of the King being assembled, but every member of the King's police force looks alike and behaves in the same stupid and dead manner. It is only the lower city that has escaped the dummification, and yet they are also dummies in another way: waiting for the Bird to come as their messiah. However, they are still not dummies in every way: they still do believe that the Sun exists, they still listen to music and can dream that more beauty is there even if they can't really say what it is like, and hence they can still be someone. It is interesting that most of those who are under the Sun and the Stars have nothing to believe in and know everything, most of those are dead; and that from those for whom the Sun is a myth and to say that the Earth is round a prayer, who can only and do believe, most are still alive, even if stripped of the confidence in themselves. But it is the swaggering Bird who believes and yet knows a lot, who makes - one knows not - stories or truths of all the world she has seen but also has the anger to finish the last cage in the world of Kings, which exemplifies the virtue of being sagacious and yet a romantic, especially in a world being increasingly populated by dummies.

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