t goes without saying that much of the world’s best animation can be enjoyed by kids and adults alike, no matter who the intended audience is. We need look no further than the current Studio Ghibli retrospective at TIFF Bell Lightbox for examples of some incredibly nuanced, emotionally complex storytelling that has something profound to offer to audiences of all ages.
But really, what would be the fun of being an adult, if we didn’t get to have ice cream for dinner, go to bed late, and enjoy some animated films that just aren’t for kids at all?
My colleague Nelson Cabral’s TFS List includes several titles that would make my personal top five as well, including Jan Å vankmajer’s stop-motion masterpiece, Alice, and the trippy and sexy Heavy Metal, both of which could easily confuse (or scar) a child who happened to walk in at the wrong moment (just try to watch this clip from Alice without being a little creeped out, no matter how old you are), but they could also inspire or blow the mind of the right impressionable youngster.
However, that’s not what I wanted to do with this month’s At Home Film Festival. I wanted to design a program that could be the equivalent of your older sister slamming her door (with that annoying “˜no brats allowed’ sign) in your face and leaving you to press your ear against the wall and wonder what she and her girlfriends are up to. These films are decidedly for grownups. They span a broad spectrum of animation styles that, while they may seem disparate, serve as a great primer on the world of “adult animation”, in the non-triple-X sense (though two of the three films in this selection do veer into that territory).
Fritz the Cat
Ralph Bakshi’s debut feature, Fritz the Cat, became instantly infamous when it was released in 1972 as the fist animated feature to receive an X rating from the MPAA (this clip makes it pretty clear why that might have happened). Based on the comic book by the same name by Robert Crumb, the film is a wild ride through the turbulent “˜60s, told through the adventures of a pretty raunchy kitty cat. Bakshi (and indeed, Crumb) pull no punches in satirizing issues like race relations, politics and the sexual revolution. Fritz has sex, does drugs, gets chased by cops and says shocking things, but the plot is not so much what’s important here. Just go with the flow and allow yourself to not be offended by politically incorrect humour from so long before that term existed that we can probably just agree to call it ‘transgresively hilarious’. If you’ve ever wanted to watch a cat have group sex with three lady-animals in a bathtub, this one’s for you.
Leaping from the lurid sex-and-drugs world of 1960s America directly into the violence and corporate oppression of futuristic France, the next film on the agenda is Christian Volckman’s Renaissance, a black & white noir-ish (no pun intended) sci-fi thriller from 2004 that centres around the disappearance of scientist Illona Tastuiev, and the cop who’s tasked with solving the case (voiced in the English dub by Daniel Craig). The visual style of Renaissance is arresting and totally unique, presenting its mysteries in a world permanently encased in shadow. The sci-fi thriller storyline uses high-contrast black and white animation to intensify the atmosphere of ever-present danger. This is what the film adaptation of Sin City might have looked like if it wasn’t live-action (and if it was more concerned with being dark and disturbing, rather than just stylish).
If you haven’t been upset, frightened or turned on enough by the choices so far, get ready for the ultimate mind-f**k, Anders Morgenthaler’s Princess, a Danish film that played TIFF’s Midnight Madness programme in 2006. Princess tells the tale of a missionary named August, whose sister (a former porn star & drug addict named Princess) has died, leaving him to take care of her five-year-old daughter. August decides to go on a rampage to stamp out all evidence of his sister’s pornographic career, with the little girl in tow. Morgenthaler juxtaposes a very kid-friendly animation style to tell the present-day tale of August’s mission with gritty home-video style live action footage to flash back to Princess’ troubled past. The jarring style amplifies the effect – the viewer really feels like they’re learning about Princess through the eyes of a child in a way that’s profoundly disturbing. Princess is a difficult viewing experience, but it’s an excellent film, and one of the most effective hybrids of animation and live action I’ve ever seen.
Fritz the Cat, Renaissance and Princess are all available for rental at Queen Video, so, lock the kids in their room with the Toy Story trilogy, pour yourself a tumbler full of bourbon, and settle in for a night of R-rated animation!
At Home Film Festival is monthly column designed to give you an evening of thought-provoking film curated by a TFS writer.
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