Thursday, 29 May 2014

Le Roi et l'oiseau (1980) Review

Some of the fantastically surreal and egotistical aesthetics of the film, with the statues of the King.

Le Roi et l'oiseau, or, the King and the Mockingbird (or the Shepherdess and the Chimney-sweep), is a French 1980's animated film based on the stories of Hans Christian Andersen. Given there is a robot involved for a good portion of the film, this did throw me off a bit as I'm quite sure there are no stories regarding robots written by him. This film was viewed on recommendation of a friend - primarily as not many films have taken my interest at the moment. So, instead of being exposed to nothing at all like a stubborn horror fan, I have elected to viewing recently a mix of innocently whimsical and general foreign cinema.
(Being located in York where an independent cinema is accessible has been really great for spontaneous film screenings of obscure animations and foreign film such as this, but, I shall get back to my review.)

The King and the Mockingbird was overwhelming and basic all at the same time as a narrative, given how extreme the events of the plot progressed to be. One segment included lions waltzing in couples to classical music, while a mockingbird convinced them why they should storm the king's castle for 'scaring away sheep'. Couple wants to fall in love without any issue, but the King gets in the way - there is the plot in it's entirety. Along with many other surreal elements, such as the real King being replaced with the portrait painting king (it's not explained what magic is existent in this world, but apparently portraits and statues can come to life). The Mockingbird serves as a gaudy and pantomime-ish narrator who lost his avian wife to the King's hunting habits.

This film was aesthetically seamless. Remote controlled thrones and motor thrones, everything was very rapidly paced and smooth sounding. The simplicity of the diegetic sound effects were very effective - which was shown particularly well in the opening scenes with the King on his throne and his dog.  It was also in a way, uncomfortably seamless, as heights and defiance of physics distress me (curiously), despite employing these aesthetics in my own artwork. Specifically, the King's rocket shaped lift that seemed to continue up without any overhead or substantial supports, like a scene from Where's Ruff's Bone. The Chimney Sweep and Shepherdess characters also had the same face, which was a little bit odd. I suppose the elements of the film were intentionally so ridiculous and exaggerated, it made you giddy. Along with how the King could re-position the trap door to dispose of whoever he wanted, wherever he wanted, in his fantastic palace towering up to the heavens.

The main protagonist I found to be gratingly gaudy and daft, "Don't worry children, daddy knows what he's doing", particularly in how he kept letting one of his children get caught in a trap repeatedly. The final image at the conclusion of the film, is strangely apocalyptic - the destroyed kingdom and barren lands left with the robot used to bring the palace down. There is no doubt, however, this film is intricately, carefully and beautifully animated in how elaborate the setting of the palace is, while the aesthetics are not appealing to me. I think this is vastly underrated and unknown as a children's animation (although, I agreed with my friend this might give anyone that age nightmares). Something that made me chuckle a fair bit was how emotive the lions' faces were, too. Supposedly this film was also one of many inspirations for Hayao Miyazaki and his films. Certainly an interesting watch.

Overall rating: 6/10
Reviewed by Abigail Lewis

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