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Movie Reviews : Quality Uneven In 20th Tournee Of Animation

September 25, 1987|CHARLES SOLOMON

For 20 years, the International Tournee of Animation, an annual program of short films (at selected theaters), has been offering American audiences a chance to see some of the best examples of world animation.

Although museum shows and cable distribution make it easier to see animated films today, the tournee remains the most prestigious showcase of its kind. The 20th installment is an uneven collection encompassing a wide spectrum of techniques, media and quality.

In "Carnival" (Great Britain), Susan Young uses a few graceful lines and fragments of bright pigment to evoke the movements of the dancers in a Latin American festival. Although Young's direction is uncertain at times, "Carnival" is an outstanding piece of pure animation that blends motion, color and sound into patterns of synergetic beauty.

Three examples of state-of-the-art computer animation from the United States highlight the rapid development--and limits--of this medium.

John Lasseter and William Reeves bring an unprecedented intensity to the inanimate objects that become characters in "Red's Dream" and the Oscar nominee, "Luxo, Jr." Like the best drawn characters, the forlorn unicycle in "Dream" and the long-suffering father lamp in "Luxo" express recognizable emotions through the way they move. In Michael Cedeno's "Oilspot and Lipstick," the antics of two doglike creatures composed of odd bits of junk capture some of the fun of the old theatrical cartoons.

For most Americans, animation remains synonymous with humor, and the 20th Tournee includes several very funny films. "Drawing on My Mind" (U.S.) blends the outrageous words of George Carlin with the equally absurd drawings of commercial animator Bob Kurtz. Bruno Bozzetto uses mime to illustrate a star-crossed love affair between a housewife and a little blue bug in "Baeus" (Italy). The simple clay figures in Garri Bardin's witty "Break" (Soviet Union) spoof a boxing match.

This year's Academy Award winner for animated short, "A Greek Tragedy" (Belgium) by Nicole Van Goethem, depicts the misadventures of three weary caryatids trying to support a rapidly crumbling pediment. Although the film suffers from a weak ending, parts of it are hilarious. Csaba Varga's "Augusta Feeds Her Child" (Hungary) and Bill Plympton's "Your Face" (U.S.) are sure crowd-pleasers.

Jane Aaron's amateurish "Set in Motion" (U.S.) and the vulgar "Girl's Night Out" (Great Britain) by Joanna Quinn contrast sharply with the more polished works.

Aaron uses stop-motion techniques to move pieces of paper over the walls of a New York apartment in an overly precious exercise in self-indulgence. The crude drawing and sloppy animation in Quinn's noxious, puerile endorsement of sexual harassment simply don't belong in a show that purports to offer the best in world animation.

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