A scene from Emma De Swaef and Marc James Roels majestic stop-motion animation “Ce Magnifique Gâteau!”
Delano’s pick of the day at Luxembourg City Film Festival is an afternoon screening of two highly original animated films.
If felt and wool puppets can make you laugh, cry and reflect on the horrors and injustice of colonialism, then you know you are in the hands of brilliant film-makers. “Ce Magnifique Gâteau!” (This Magnificent Cake!) by Belgian pair Emma De Swaef and Marc James Roels is a shortish stop-motion film divided into 5 distinct chapters that hand together by the red thread of their historical context--the 19th century Belgian occupation of Congo.
Watch the trailer to “Ce Magnifique Gâteau!”
In the first, a troubled king--read King Leopold II--reveals his grand plans for the Congo but is annoyed by a hiccups and a flautist. His famous quote--“I do not want to miss a good chance of getting us a slice of this magnificent African cake”--gives the film its title. Then there is the tragic story of a middle-aged Pygmy working in a luxury hotel involving a grand piano scene straight out of the silent movies. A failed businessman, a lost porter and a young army deserter people the other three chapters--each as memorable and as moving as the next.
Details and characters are cleverly interwoven between the stories to create a coherent narrative. The production design is amazing, even if the puppets themselves are purposely rendered as simply as possible. Yet the directors manage to give their characters real depth and emotion, heroism and flaws, that make them very human. But forget that it is animation, “Ce Magnifique Gâteau!” is quite simply one of the most impressive and original films of the year.
Also on the bill is “Seder Masochism”, Nina Paley's trippy, colourful, kaleidoscopic, feminist take on the Jewish family ritual Passover Seder.
Taking its cue from the book of Exodus, the film uses iconic art to explore the story of the Israelites leaving Egypt for the Holy land. But Paley tells the story from the perspective of a female deity, and for good measure throws in a euphonic soundtrack featuring great songs by the likes of The Beatles, The Four Tops, Guns N’Roses, 10CC and Gloria Gaynor. This film might even have the audience dancing in their seats.