Writer/Director: Michel Ocelot
Here’s the deal: this review is for the animated French movie “Tales of the Night,” a story book anthology filled with whimsy and beauty, but upon watching this at 1:00 A.M. on a laptop, I knew I had made an egregious mistake. The best possible way to see this movie would have been at a film festival with an all-age audience – not in your underwear on a screen the size of a cutting board. But I did see this movie without knowing anything about it and I would suggest the same to anyone else. Actually, you should know that it’s animated and whimsical. You may hate those two things.
“Tales of the Night” stars three thespians conversing over the art of storytelling and performance in an abandoned theatre. Theo (Yves Barsacq) is an older screenwriter that lost clout in the film industry as he aged. Boy (Julien Beramis) and Girl (Marine Griset) are actors looking to hone their craft and learn from the experiences of Theo. So, the three come up with ideas and collaboratively create a narrative to portray on stage.
The results of their creative ambitions are six short fairytales with their own themes and majesty. The settings and mood for each story are fairly different and the colors and shapes used dramatically change between tales. The African settings uses yellows, reds, and oranges with smooth and broad strokes, while the medieval story uses finer and more articulate details with cooler blues, greens, and purples. It’s visually captivating, but the guidelines of the visuals remain consistent. Every person is a black silhouette against a radiant backdrop, creating a very symmetrical composition.
I decided to review this movie because it’s an obscure and unique animated film. What I didn’t know is how far the history of this movie goes. “Tales of the Night” was directed by Michael Ocelot, which is a great name if you’re a video game villain. I had never heard of him prior to this, but he’s been making animated films like this for the last thirty years. In 1989 he created a French television series called “Cine Si,” along the same lines as “Tales of the Night.”
This movie was hard to review, because it’s a damn nice movie. Its tales are simple yet intriguing and the animation is lush and smooth. I even had an odd sense of nostalgia while watching it. It made me remember titles of obscure fairy tales I read as a kid. These weren’t the cookie-cutter books from the grade school syllabus, but the ones I found in the back of school libraries covered in dust. Stuff like “Just So Stories,” “Among the Forest People,” and the “Grimms’ Fairy Tales.” Fairy Tales where protagonists die, The Grimm Reaper is a character, and the Devil sends people to hell. “Tales of the Night” has a similar approach. It may be simple enough for three-year-olds to understand, but it never talks down to children. It keeps consequences true and morals ernest. Most wide-release movies don’t do that.
Plus, it’s really really really really really really really really really really really pretty.
Random Bits and Tids:
- If you liked this, check out “The Secret of Kells” and/or “A Cat in Paris.”
- What device were they using to instantly manufacture elaborate wardrobes out of stars?
- The movie is layered in such a way that I could see 3D working really well for it.
- Did they get permission to use that theater, or were they trespassing?