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.

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About dcpfilm

Shooting, teaching, writing and watching the Phillies.
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