Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Jean-François Laguionie's THE PAINTING opens -- GKIDS' best animated film so far!

At first, the must-see piece of French animation THE PAINTING, from co-writer/director Jean-François Laguionie (shown below), seems like a terrific parable about racism, classism, prejudice and justice. In a painting which its artist has left unfinished, the characters -- those who are completely drawn and colored, those half-drawn and others barely sketched -- break into severely formed classes, with the completed figures ruling the other two. When a "finished" Romeo falls in love with an "unfinished" Juliet, all hell break loose.

But then, ah, the movie goes after so much larger game that it becomes its own creation myth. TrustMovies and his ex-wife first saw this film at last year's Rendez-vous With French Cinema, where we both found it quite special -- enchanting, beautiful, intelligent and engrossing. Seeing it again a year later, it holds up marvelously. This time our 8-year-old granddaughter viewed it, too (the film is being released by GKIDS and marketed to children). Sure enough, our granddaughter loved it -- and insisted on watching it again the next day.

The animation is old fashioned and at all times graceful, lovely and occasionally laugh-out-loud funny; the story is exciting but sweet (kids should love it, particularly those with a budding interest in art), while adults will find it almost shockingly relevant in its themes and content -- not to mention its being a superb entryway into a discussion with kids about subjects such as who are we, where do we come from, who's really in charge and why?

The big question our granddaughter wanted answered was, why does that one group, who've been colored-in and completed, have to be so mean to the others? (Why, indeed. Let's hope, by the time you reach high school, honey, that times will have changed.)

For anyone who has studied history, the movie will bring to mind everything from royalty, peasants and the French Revolution to Jean Valjean and that loaf of bread. Younger kids will look to their own experience and find plenty of examples.

This is a brilliant concept that M. Laguionie and his crew have brought to witty, charming, even profound life. And, ah, those colors! The movie must be considered a don't-miss -- especially, but not only, for lovers of animation.

The Painting, running just 75 minutes, opens Friday, May 10, in New York City at the Village East Cinema, where it will be shown (for kids) in an English-language version all day and early evening, and in-the original French-with-English-subtitles version at the 9:30pm showing daily. The film is also said to be coming to various Landmark Theaters around the country in the weeks/months to come. So keep watch and don't let this one slide by you.

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