A great big white balloon floats above the city. Passersby with tightly wrapped scarves and pom pom hats hurry into the bleak December evening, their heads bowed. Suddenly, someone stops. Perhaps they need to tie their shoelaces or light a cigarette. They quickly glance up at the sky, hidden behind naked tree branches, which is filled with leaf-like smiling faces. “Hullo, hullo”, they say to themselves. “Has the moon fallen from the sky?”
No, it's the Animateka festival.
It's that time of the year when reality discards the gray coat it ordered from Humdrum & Sons. It's the time of the year when you can live in colours, laughter and in an alternate set of dimensions. It’s a piece of happiness and joy. When everything unusual becomes possible and commonplace, like the little boy with a saucepan, a red casserole dish tied to his wrist.
It is said that the best things should be left till last. However, this year’s festival line-up had me seeing only cream, strawberries and cherries, which is why I left no room for hesitation and decided to indulge in the Cartoon d'Or programme, presenting this year’s golden harvest of European animated films. The cream of the crop. I can say with great pride and a total lack of modesty that the programme also featured Boles, a Slovenian film made by Špela Čadež. The longing expressed in those dreamy nautical love letters and Filip’s empty sheets of writing paper gets stronger with each viewing.
Mais, il semble que les Français savent le plus. Oh, yes, it seems the French have still got it. This year, the golden selection was more French than a beret-wearing croissant – smoking Gauloises. Remember that gorgeous black-and-white photograph of a nude woman’s back with the two f-holes of a stringed instrument on each side? Kiki de Montparnasse held in her hands the bodies, hearts, words, paintbrushes and lenses of the greatest artists to frequent those smoke-filled Paris coffee shops back in the mad 1920s and 30s. The animation sometimes conjures up a kind of Woody-Allen-Midnight-in-Paris nostalgia, which expertly weaves along Modigliani’s, Man Ray’s, Foujita’s and other models. The steampunk story about lonely Mr Hublot and his rapidly growing mechanical dog also serves up the same utopian nostalgia, but perhaps the longing is for other, different times. It seems nails, oiled screws and hammers are not as dead-cold as one might first assume.
Beautiful and heart-felt stories make December evenings warmer and more inviting. Almost garishly sweet, like the text you are reading. Too sweet not to have a Yule log? Certainly. La bûche de Noël is the funniest Christmas film ever to catch my eye. The child-like figurines named Cowboy and Indian, both resting on green bases and uncannily resembling the ones hidden in our parents’ drawers from bygone boyhoods and girlhoods, will stop at nothing to get their Christmas presents. A Christmas edition of the A Town Called Panic stop-motion animated film, if it rings any bells.
The great big white balloon, hovering above the doors of the Slovenian Cinematheque, bounced around on the waves of laughter emanating from the dark movie theatre. It’s with a sweet and nostalgic feeling, accompanied by a hefty smile, that we prepare for a new Animateka day. New colourful worlds. Chasing a great big white balloon floating above a city dreaming.
Translation: Jernej Pribošič