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By Joe Bendel. Emilio is about to rediscover the joys of institutional food. The former banker has a hard time adjusting to life in an old folks home. Unfortunately, his fading faculties will eventually rob him of the relationships he forges in Ignacio Ferreas’s animated feature Wrinkles, which screens as part of the 2012 edition of Spanish Cinema Now.
Emilio has Alzheimer’s, but nobody will tell him that directly. Increasingly difficult to handle, his grown son has packed him off to a nursing home. His new roommate Miguel, an Argentinian scammer, has been down this road before. Still sharp as a tack, Miguel specializes in conning the more addled residents out of their pocket money and flirting hopelessly with the nursing staff. Initially, Emilio is quite appalled by his shameless roommate, but they warm to each other over time—sort of. Miguel insists he is actually doing good deeds by keeping his suckers emotionally engaged on some level. While completely at odds with his middle class morality, Emilio starts to see his point.
Adapted from Paco Roca’s graphic novel, Wrinkles is entirely honest to its characters and their circumstances, making it a bit of a tough sell commercially. Nonetheless, its deeply humanistic spirit is quite refreshing. Avoiding cheap melodrama, it has more quietly telling moments than most slice-of-life live action indies, let alone the typical animated tent-pole.
Ferreras, who served as an animator on Sylvain Chomet’s wonderfully wistful The Illusionist, employs a similarly sensitive 2D animation that feels reassuringly nostalgic. Some of his richly detailed flashback sequences are even quite lovely. While the narrative occasionally resorts to the odd cliché, like the defiant, doomed-to-fail road-trip, most of the notes Wrinkles hits ring true.
While its themes are about as “mature” as they get, there is absolutely nothing objectionable in Wrinkles for young viewers. Still, the vibe of sad resignation is probably best appreciated by somewhat older audiences. Featuring two very real cartoon characters and an elegant visual style, Wrinkles is recommended surprisingly strongly for fans of both animation and Spanish film. It screens this coming Sunday afternoon (12/16) as part of the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s annual Spanish Cinema Now series.
LFM GRADE: A-
Posted on December 13th, 2012 at 10:33am.
By Joe Bendel. It seems there are some things all newspapermen have in common: a taste for booze, and an abiding bitterness over the state of their lives. It is true at The Times and it is true at the Daily Suggester, a local broadsheet serving a profoundly depressed burg roughly situated where the Midwest meets Hill country. The scandalous history tying together three Suggester employees will come to light in Chris Sullivan’s years-in-the-making animated feature Consuming Spirits, which is now playing in New York at Film Forum.
As an evening talk radio host and columnist for the Suggester, former ladies man Earl Gray dispenses dark philosophical truths disguised as gardening tips. Victor Blue drudges along in a dreary back-office job at the paper with little hope of reclaiming control of his life from the social workers who have been mismanaging it since he was a child. He is semi-involved with Gentian Violet, the paper’s paste-up employee who lives with her senile mother. She has also just run over a nun, whom she has buried in a fit of panic, even though the sister was not yet dead. Yes, perhaps she was slightly under the influence, but who isn’t? This hit-and-run accident will reveal many secrets in a roundabout way.
Sullivan’s film is absolutely not animation for children. While there are spots of mature content here and there, it is the overwhelmingly fatalistic vibe that would most trouble younger viewers. Yet, that is also its greatest merit. Consuming is more closely akin to David Lynch’s vision of small town America (most notably Twin Peaks and Blue Velvet) than anything produced by the major animation studios. This is really not a genre picture in any sense and its revelations are easy to predict, but there is still something unsettling about it all that lingers with viewers well after the initial screening.
Consuming is also pretty notable for its cynical portrayal of social workers, more or less implying they often compound problems rather than solve them. On the other hand, those poor nuns really take it in the shins. Sullivan will spare them no anti-Catholic stereotype. Still, he nails the rust belt-Appalachian milieu (it smells a lot like Clark County, Ohio, but it could be any number of places).
Visually, Consuming is also quite distinctive, incorporating claymation and deliberately sketchy line animation for flashbacks. However, the bulk of the present day action is rendered 2D cut-out animation that seems to perfectly convey the broken souls inside their flat, crumpled bodies.
There are some wickedly funny moments in Consuming, often coming from the haunted Gray. Indeed, Robert Levy’s richly evocative voice-over performance as the “Gardeners Corners” host is one of the best you will hear in animated films in a month of Sundays. Yet, while Sullivan’s script has its inspired moments, its overall trajectory is disappointingly conventional. Recommended for animation fans who appreciate style, tone, and characterization more than narrative, Consuming Spirits runs through Christmas Day at Film Forum.
LFM GRADE: B-/C+
Posted on December 13th, 2012 at 10:31am.