In English, French, and Swedish, with English subtitles. Rating unavailable
Here it comes. Here it comes your 19th nervous breakdown. Sorry! Putting aside vintage Rolling Stones songs, what’s actually coming is the 19th version of the Animation Show of Shows. The venerable touring festival, curated by Acme Filmworks founder Ron Diamond, has generally been more consistent than earlier rivals like Spike & Mike and the Sick & Twisted series. But this year’s presentation is unusual in that there isn’t one dud in the 16 shorts offered in a perfectly paced 90 minutes.
Timely themes of alienation, wonder, and loss run through even the most playful of these international efforts. As usual, there are oldies mixed in, including 1993’s whimsical “Next Door”, by Pete Docter, who went on to create Monsters, Inc. and Up, and “The Hangman”, a 1964 parable that looks at the murderous intentions of the blind nationalism recurring today.
Other filmlets, like France’s “Unsatisfying Compilation” and Switzerland’s painting-based “The Battle of San Romano”, toy with basic forms and viewer expectations. The strongest efforts here, though, are longer explorations of self-contained realities. Also from France comes “Gokurôsama”, set in a neon-lit, mock-Asian shopping mall where everything goes wrong, then right. One surprise is the melancholy hand-drawn “Dear Basketball” that Kobe Bryant produced and narrates, contemplating his own retirement. If the overemphatic musical score sounds like John Williams, that’s because it is.
For me, the absolute showstopper was the 15-minute “The Burden”, by Sweden’s Niki Lindroth von Bahr, who builds miniature worlds—like the supermarket, hotel, and industrial park in this one—and then writes spooky, modern-classical songs for animal puppets to sing. (Who knew fish worried about skin conditions and divorce?)
Actually, the less you know about these things, the better. Just trust that you (especially if given the proper medication) will sail blissfully out of the Rio Theatre, which hosts this program sporadically over the next few weeks. That’s because it ends with the supercosmic trailer for “Everything”, a galaxy-hopping game by Ireland’s David OReilly. The narration is a vintage recording by Alan Watts, who puts the Zen back in Now.