Animation collection amounts to sort of a can film festival

September 09, 1992|By Stephen Hunter | Stephen Hunter,Film Critic

Of the assembling of animated short subjects there seems to be no end. Each year brings a "tournee," a "collection" and a "celebration," to say nothing of subsets on topics like "erotic animation," "animated surrealism" and "Eastern European Art Animated Short Subjects Displaying the Influence of Kafka, Schulz, Celine and Goofy."

So now the Charles brings in "The Fourth Animation Celebration: The Movie" and if you tortured me to explain why it's different from the third animation celebration or the 13th animation tournee or the second collection of animated films about the society of cherry tomato cans, I'd go to my maker with my lips sealed, not out of courage but sheer ignorance.

Still, if this is the thing you like, there's a lot of it to like here. The long Bulgarian piece about cherry tomato cans literally has to be seen to be believed, and having seen it, I'm not at all sure I believe it. It's a kind of "1984: The Tomato Can," a 12-minute vision of a hellish totalitarian society somewhere in the near future, complete to dictators, secret police, torture, rebellion, sex and heroism, as enacted by . . . tomato cans. Somewhere in Europe, a huge staff of earnest filmmakers spent what probably amounts to years and years inventing a tomato can race, replicating it in the thousands and pushing each little can through a unique set of moves, and photographing the entire thing a frame at a time. Yet if you asked what it was about, I wouldn't say "the evils of repression" or "the unquenchable human yearning to be free," I'd say "tomato cans." In fact, that's what the movie says: It's called "Canfilm."

The single best piece hails from our good friends in Moscow, those wonder-wags of cartoonland, red style. The title being lost in a glop of impenetrable Cyrillic, the piece must go nameless: Still, it's about a high party official who wakes up one day to find out that whichever button he pushes is THE button; that is, the button that explodes things. In a somewhat puzzled way, he goes around blowing things up, absurdly unable to really believe the cause-effect relationship between the button and the destruction. Could this be a parable for an ignorant party apparatus? My lips are again sealed.

Those pesky Russkies also have some fun with the age-old tradition of hunting, in "The Hunter," in which a hunter learns that if you take up a weapon to slay the beast, you run the risk of another hunter with a bigger weapon.

Other pieces are not so exquisite. MTV evidently sponsored a save-the-world animated contest, with animators giving brief life to planet-friendly messages. It's so idealistic it gave me a headache. Then -- a really rotten concept -- the producers had the bright idea of asking three animators to come up with tributes to the hyper-violent style of Bugs Bunny's creator, Tex Avery. The three can imitate the violence, but not the style: The result is nearly 10 minutes of eye gougings, head bangings and body bashings.

L The "Celebration" will play at the Charles through Sept. 16.

'The Fourth Animation Celebration: The Movie'

Animated.

Released by Expanded Animation.

Unrated.

**

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