With exquisite details and colorful backgrounds, “Tales of the Night” from GKIDS is beautiful to behold.
“Tales of the Night” is from French animator Michel Ocelot (“Kirikou and the Sorceress,” “Azur & Asmar”), who’s made quite a name for himself animating with shadow silhouettes instead of fully formed characters. It brings to mind shadow puppetry, of course, but animation frees things up for a wider range of motion and backgrounds.
Six stories make up the main part of the movie. They’re framed by sequences featuring an old filmmaker and his two young protoges, who let their imaginations run wild.
Each story is set in some exotic location and time period, from medieval Europe to Tibet to Africa. Each seems pretty straightforward at first but ends with a little twist that usually leaves a smile on the viewer’s face.
I like classic fairy tales, so my favorite was “The Werewolf,” about two sisters tied to a young man. It’s a story of love and deceit. I was also fond of “The Doe-Girl and the Architect’s Son,” which is a little more adventurous. And “The Chosen One and the City of Gold” had some stunning choral music.
I wasn’t completely sold on the shadow technique, though. You could see their eyes, which certainly helped, but it was sometimes difficult to connect with the characters. The animation is very cool, but it puts a bit of distance between you and the character. Of course, it forces the viewer to use some imagination to fill in the big gaps. It’s an interesting challenge. And, like I said before, I still feel better for watching the movie.
As a fan of the anime genre, where debates have run for years on subtitles offering literal translation vs. just repeating the dub script, I have to say I would have appreciated the former. The movie is dubbed nicely, so it’s a moot point for a lot of people, but when I switched tracks, I could understand just enough of the French to know we weren’t getting the direct translation. It’s a small point but important for purists.
If you’re a fan of animation and like to try new things, don’t miss “Tales of the Night.” It’s a beaut.