September 22, 2012

Everyday Horror

by Allen Irwin

ParaNorman (2012) - dir. Chris Butler & Sam Fell

Everything in the little town of Blithe Hollow is slightly off-kilter. Its inhabitants are mild grotesques who typically sport an angular, misshapen brow or oddly bloated torso. Witch-themed outlets like Witchy Wieners and a Witch Casino dot the townscape. And, at least for an eleven year-old boy named Norman, ghosts float idly down the street waiting to wish you good morning.

ParaNorman is the second feature from Laika, whose hand-crafted brand of stop-motion was last seen in Coraline. Proof positive that traditional styles of animation still have staying power, ParaNorman is an aesthetic delight, with production design worthy of an "I Spy" book and just the right touch of the uncanny. The fluidity of motion achieved through advances in technology (such as its groundbreaking use of color 3D printers) goes 99% of the way towards creating a seamless world, leaving just enough awareness of its artificiality for the whole thing to feel slightly fantastic and creepy (like the Brothers Quay for kids).

September 11, 2012

In the Realm of Senso

by Allen Irwin

Senso (1954) - dir. Luchino Visconti

In 1954, after three films with strong ties to neorealism, Luchino Visconti turned his idiosyncratic eye to a very different kind of movie - the historical epic. Senso, his first color film, unfurls with grand gestures and a painter’s eye for color and composition. Like the turbulent classical period of Italy’s history he was depicting (the 1860s), Visconti directs, even conducts, with an operatic flair and a romantic lilt. Senso is history filtered through the amber hued tones of Italian Technicolor and the narrow lens of a single, yet influential, love affair.

Senso’s overwhelming romanticism and melodramatic use of visuals demands a reaction that utilizes the same elements - so in lieu of a traditional essay, a visual montage with annotations is in order.