In the Loop (Iannucci, 2009) and Alma (Blaas, 2009)

I want to talk more about this awesome short animated film than the pretty good full-length political satire.

Alma is from Pixar-animator Rodrigo Blaas.  It’s apparently currently being workshopped into a feature.  It involves a girl, a creepy doll house, and some eerie glass eyes and sound effects.  The whole thing is under 5 minutes but it’s a full story with gorgeous animation.

The film starts with a crane down past snow-covered roofs and to a little girl traipsing through the snowy streets.  She’s cute and happy and as she stops to write her name in the frost on a window, her attention is drawn to the doll shop across the street where a doll that looks remarkably similar to her is looming in the window.

I won’t say much else about the story because it’s really worth a view, but one thing that Blaas does quite well in here is quickly switch tones.  Alma starts as a cute, pretty picture and ends as a creepy, pretty picture.  The tonal switch is achieved in a few specific ways: the contrast between exterior (freedom) and interior (claustrophobia); sound (an over-squeaky bicycle wheel, a door’s creak); and a changing color pattern largely, again, between exterior and interior.  There’s also a visual cue in here that becomes intentionally redundant – Alma writing her name in the window.  Its redundancy (it’s echoed at the end) signifies an obvious circular nature, but also immediately changes a harmless child activity into something much more sinister.  It changes innocence to a cautionary tale.  It’s sort of a take on the “don’t talk to strangers”-film.

In the Loop

In the Loop is a pretty hilarious political satire with a good cast that includes James Gandolfini, Tom Hollander, and Mimi Kennedy.  It’s about a low-level politician who misspeaks on national radio.  His words spark cross-continental war-worries, reveal secret committees, and lead to some really funny romantic liaisons.

In the Loop luckily avoids the “aware of camera” feel of a lot of current mockumentary/satire and, though the handheld camera is present, it’s at least kept to a minimum.

If there’s a major flaw in In the Loop it’s that it doesn’t necessarily get big enough.  Unlike its more successful cousin Four Lions, In the Loop relies on its entrenchment within American/British politics more so than what could become larger situations.  While things do escalate, the feeling isn’t one of a loss of control (within the narrative, which would be preferable), but rather bureaucratic confusion.

Still, the jockeying for position is hilarious and a scene where a British higher-up is forced to a sit-in with a US senator who appears to be just barely older than 18 is very funny and good summary of much of the type of humor throughout.


About dcpfilm

Shooting, teaching, writing and watching the Phillies.
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