Sex, drugs and rock’n’roll were but three of the shared subjects animating the Annecy Animation Showcase, presented as part of the Marché du Film at last month’s Cannes Film Festival. Marking its fifth edition, this year’s work-in-progress spotlight imparted a decidedly adult flavor, with a preponderance of showcased titles tackling outré material for mature crowds.
“On the market side, adult-skewing projects are no longer a trend,” says Annecy chief Mickaël Marin. “The form is now well-established. Of course, global platforms have opened new doors and widened the field of possibilities, so we encourage financiers and broadcasters if not to take risks, then to at least explore new avenues beyond traditional family animation.”
Of the five projects presented at the Cannes showcase, “Hina is Beautiful,” from Japan’s Iwaisawa Kenji, and “Rock Bottom,” from Spain’s María Trénor, both deploy a similar, rotoscoped 2D style towards wildly different ends.
A Spanish-Polish co-production, fully-financed and aiming for a festival berth early next year, Trénor’s “Rock Bottom” offers a loose and liberated riff on the life (and work) of British rocker Robert Wyatt. Led by an all-female creative team, the film follows a pair twentysomething idealists who find a respite from early 70s conventions in the hippie haven of Mallorca and is set against songs from Wyatt’s eponymous 1974 album (which will mark its 50th anniversary in time for the film’s premiere).
The excerpt screened found a young set of lovers skinny-dipping under the moonlight, and making Super-8 home movies scored by the crashing waves and by Wyatt’s blotto anthem “Sea Song.” Cast in clean lines and rich colors, the footage matched the music’s wistful tone, while director Marian Trenor compared her own biography to that of Wyatt – specifically to singer’s period of artistic ferment and physical hardships after an accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down.
Assembled like a B-movie sizzle reel, the presentation for “Hina is Beautiful” was montage of women undressing, motorcycles roaring at full speed, men brawling and tight close-ups of razors dripping with blood, all painted in bright watercolors, set to relentless guitar licks, and broken up by intertitles promising “Sheer madness’ and “Men… driven by impulse!” Aiming for completion in 2025, the project will build on the idiosyncratic rotoscope style director Iwaisawa Kenji developed for his previous film, “On-Gaku: Our Sound,” while bouncing off an action script from Oscar-nominated “Drive My Car” scribe Oe Takamasa.
The Brazilian road-movie “The Son of a Bitch” left a formal mark, as directors Otto Guerra, Tania Anaya, Erica Maradona, and Savio Leite worked cartoonish designs into starkly adult situations, moving across backland brothels and underserved hovels for a bawdy coming-of-age tale about a young man searching for his father. While the graphic designs remained fixed in two-tone lines of black ink, the fill-color and background would change from scene to scene. At one pivotal moment, once the central character experiences a moment of revelation, the blank space within the design filled with painted details and a varicolored visual texture reminiscent of plumage and hard-paint.
Upamanyu Bhattacharyya’s “Heirloom” offered an even more pronounced formal leap by toggling 2D digital with a kind of needlepoint stop motion where every frame is a detailed tapestry. The two-craft project follows characters that forgo the heartbreaks of daily life (here in 1960s Ahmedabad) by leaping into an epic tapestry that immortalizes their family saga in fabric. When the characters make the jump the film’s style follows suit, as so-called “rough and imperfect 2D” gives way to artisanal Indian textiles and embroideries, reflecting the narrative’s central tension between tradition and modernity.
A feature, spinning off an Arte series that was itself adapted from a long-running comic collection, “Silex and the City” will continue to satirize contemporary issues through the prism of a Stone Age clan. Series creator Jul and co-director Jean-Paul Guigue will now widen their aperture, aiming at broader topics (and at broader audiences) than the long-running television series, which often skewered French celebrities and politicians. The creators likened their film’s irreverent tone to that of “Monty Python” and Woody Allen, while promising a narrative that plays on current apprehensions about technology.