The Velvet Café

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This guy gave me a new view on what animated films can be

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Have you ever heard the name Chris Landreth? Not?

I’ll give you a clue: he won an Oscar award in 2005.

Still no idea? I won’t blame you. I hadn’t heard of him either to be honest.

Chris Landreth won an Oscar alright, but it was in one of the obscure categories during which most people take the opportunity to sneak away for a bio break since they haven’t watched any of the nominated films anyway.

He makes animated short films. And who knows anything about short films? I sure didn’t until I went to the short film festival in my city last autumn and fell in love. And with such a short history with short films, it’s no wonder I was unfamiliar with the name Chris Landreth when I heard it for the first time in a Swedish radio program a few days ago.

The interview and what they said about his work raised my curiosity so I went to check out a couple of his films myself. And without using the m-word (I’ve made a promise!) I can only say as much as that I was absolutely floored by what I saw.

The films were not only highly original and visually stunning; they affected me in a way that took me completely by surprise. They made me look at animated films in a new way, on what they are and what they could be. I have to go back to Pink Floyd’s The Wall to come up with something as devastating to watch. I had never thought that you could press a lifetime of experiences, telling a story with the depth equivalent of a novel, into a little film that is just above ten minutes long.

I’m sitting here, fumbling to find the right words. An animated short film is such a hard sell. How can I make you understand? How can I convey my deeply emotional response to those films? How can I persuade you to give those films a bit of attention? Because that’s all they will cost you. They’re available for free on the webs. All I want you to do is to give them a few minutes of your life.

I’m ripping my hair in frustration and if I don’t beware I’ll end up looking like one of Landereth’s typical figures, people whose exterior deformities mirror their broken interiors.


I guess I’ll just make it short and simple and hope that it’s enough to raise your curiosity.

The first film I’d like you to watch is the Oscar winning Ryan, which portrays of another Canadian animator, Ryan Larkin, who had left the animation scene, drifting away into a life of drinking, cocaine abuse and homelessness. Most of the film takes place in some kind of soup kitchen for needing, where the animated version of Chris Landreth interviews Ryan Larkin, as well as trying to make an intervention and make him stop drinking and get back to creating. It’s very loving, very sad, a little bit funny and mesmerizing.

The second film I urge you to see is his next film, The Spine, which depicts the breakdown of a marriage. Within the span of eleven minutes the film goes into the mechanisms, the power games, the ins and outs and motivations and the pains you find in a dysfunctional relationship. The dive it takes into the human psyche is far more deep, complex and revealing than any normal full length feature movie. It might be a little hard to digest it fully, but on the other hand, it’s so short, so there’s nothing that stops you from watching it again.

As I browsed the webs to learn more about Chris Landerth, I stumbled upon a chat with him in three parts. While the technical quality is poor, the content was quite interesting. I was particularly delighted to learn about his potentially upcoming project (providing that he gets the finances sorted out), a full-length feature about the life of H.P Lovecraft. I can’t imagine anyone more suitable to make it.

I’ll leave it there. I think I’ve made myself clear. I know animated short films aren’t for everyone. But I really recommend those films. They’re not like anything I’ve seen before.

Ryan (Chris Landreth, CA, 2004) My rating: 5/5
Link to Youtube

The Spine (Chris Landreth, CA, 2009) My rating: 5/5
Link to Youtube

Written by Jessica

March 26, 2012 at 1:00 am