Film / BRITISH ANIMATION ICA, London
Wednesday 14 June 1995
It's being sold on the back of Alison Snowden and David Fine's Bob's Birthday, which won this year's Oscar for Best Animated Short Film, but many people will already have seen that short on Channel 4. You imagine, though, that this variety-pack environment is where it functions best, its tragic comedy rubbing shoulders with the goggle-eyed philosophising of the William Burroughs adaptation Ah Pook Is Here. It's an odd menu, with flavours that fox the tastebuds, but if it's aiming to demonstrate the richness of British animation, it's home and dry.
Phil Mulloy's The Sound of Music is the centrepiece, and it's like a blow-torch in the face. Fashioned in splashes of harsh black ink which just about form jackal-like characters (all clothes-peg teeth and scooped- out sockets), its smudged details sometimes blur into a grey fudge, assuming abstract proportions. There are some gruesomely satisfying set-pieces, such as when a window cleaner vomits from the top of his ladder and hits a bird in mid-flight, which plummets to earth where it is savaged by a mutt who is then, in turn, flattened by a car. The restaurant scenes, where livestock is hacked to death in the kitchens, would have even Ralph Steadman reaching for the smelling salts. It might be about urban decay, or declining hygiene standards. Perhaps it's such a blast because it just doesn't matter what it's about - you're swept along by the vigour and the mischief.
It's also worth checking out Pib & Pog, an acidic satire on children's television from Aardman Animations, the studio behind Nick Park's award- winning work; and the hypnotic Jumping Joan, which pokes around in the fibre of a haunting nursery rhyme. But the most affecting thing here is Paul Vester's 11-minute Abductees, which utilises the confessions of people who have been kidnapped by aliens, as well as bringing to life the drawings that were wrung out by their therapy. Five years in the making, the film's compassion and generosity negates scepticism.
But it, rather than Bob's Birthday, ought to close the package - it has a quiet profundity about it, painfully communicating our crippling fear of loneliness in a stark universe. Hung at the end of this outstanding showcase, its sparkle would then be undimmed - a visual question mark to carry out into the great yawning night.
n London ICA (0171-930 3647) to 22 June; touring from July-November
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