The 22nd Annual Animation Show of Shows
Returning to theaters after a two-year, pandemic-induced hiatus, the 22nd installment of the Animation Show of Shows is a rich and lovingly curated sampler of animated shorts from around the world. This program is often the first stop for short films that find themselves on your annual Academy Award nominated shorts ballots, and this year’s offerings boast a number of standout candidates. The four-minute “Beyond Noh,” by Patrick Smith and Kaori Ishida, is a blitz through the history of the mask, ranging from Japanese Noh masks to tribal ritual masks to modern Halloween masks; precisely framed and photographed, the images seem to perform a dance of their own. Geoffroy de Crécy’s “Empty Places” is one of a couple of shorts that, incidentally or not, speak to our collective experience over the past few years. In this case, a Leftovers-style rapture appears to have occurred, leaving the world populated by machines that continue to run, as if unbothered by a wildly different planet.
My two favorite films come right in the middle of the program. “Zoizoglyphe” is a debut film by the French animator Jeanne Apergis, constructed from minimalist hand-drawn birds that look a lot like musical notes. They arrange in increasingly complex patterns, and the film’s soundtrack grows more elaborate along with them. The comedic highlight of this Animation Show of Shows is “Rain (Deszcz),” Piotr Milczarek’s darkly hilarious short about an unlikely series of events that transpires on the roof of a humdrum office complex. The final half hour of the program is devoted to a 4K restoration of the 1987 Oscar winner by Frederick Back, The Man Who Planted Trees. Narrated by Christopher Plummer, the fable-like film is a stirring ecological tale with an open-ended sense of style and composition.