Saturday, 15 November 2014

Jack and the Cuckoo-clock Heart (Jack et la mécanique du cœur) (2013)

Everything old is new again as modern animation finds ways to tell a story differently

Adapted from a children’s book adapted from a concept album (all of which are produced, written, and sung by Mathias Malzieu and his French band Dionysios) Jack and the Cuckoo-clock Heart is a quirky steampunk fable about a shy boy who falls in love, pines for, searches, and woos a distant love interest despite a curious cardiac condition that may prove fatal should his ardent passions rise. George Melies, complete with his amazing cinematograph and black and white shorts, has a cameo because why not.

It’s a fable for adults populated by quirky characters spouting very adult lines travelling through landscapes and stages that are lavish visual conceits. The story is dominated by a series of sequences set to songs performed by Malzieu (as the singing voice of Jack) and Dionysios, which may double as standalone music videos.

In terms of ambition, concept, and execution, Jack may be regarded as a 3D animation, classic rock answer to Daft Punk’s Interstella 5555, yet a more fruitful comparison would be to view it in the context of modern animation and storytelling. Disney’s classic 2D animations, with Sleeping Beauty as its pinnacle, were produced as a series of fabulistic set-pieces that showcased and pushed the boundaries of the creativity and techniques of animation. In the 3D era, North American animation has sacrificed the art of animation for easily-produced 3D modelling and dramatic storytelling with psychologically realistic characters and Syd Field approved 3 act structures. Jack, with a handful of recent 3D western animated features, openly rebels against the realistic representational style of modern 3D animation to reclaim the ability to engage with the empire of imagination.

After all, how else to convey the magical whimsy and monstrous horror of real life when telling a fable?

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