Rat trap | Bleader

Rat trap

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Is this what contemporary animation ought to be about?:

"Ratatouille is a tremendous accomplishment; An animated fable that feels more painstakingly true to life than most movies dare attempt."

"Pixar manages to achieve something that few other big Hollywood films do these days: a convincing reality. The body language & emotions of the characters, the machinations of the kitchen, the sights and sounds of Paris, and the dice of the celery, Ratatouille gets it all right, down to the seemingly insignificant details."

"The multitude of animators clearly paid close attention to facets of our daily lives that we take for granted: knife marks on a cutting board, the way raindrops splash when they hit the sidewalk, the glow from a street lamp. Sitting through "Ratatouille," it doesn't take long for you to forget that you're watching an animated movie and just allow yourself to become immersed in this glorious realism."

"Brad Bird's Ratatouille is the first Pixar film that feels like a studio film and not an event picture."

"And the animation, oh, the animation. Every hair in Remy's coat, a shimmering field of blues, grays, and greens, appears to have its own life."

Well yes, those "shimmering fields" I can viscerally groove on too, since getting lost in imaginative textures, the intricacies of mass and graphic linearity that leave quotidian concerns with "realism" behind, is exactly what we depend on animation for. Or at least have in the past, since apparently what we have now is something else again . . .

I'm not a fan of Ratatouille. It's a measured, professional job, almost dutiful in its craft, sticking to responsible "realist" parameters, a well-mannered "studio film" rather than "an event," embracing all the liabilities of live-action shooting—e.g., the fidgety focus pulling, not "realism" at all but the product of optical limitation, what camera lenses can or can't do—as if they're "natural" creative options. It's what comes with the live-action territory, what animation, whenever it wants to, can utterly breeze right past.

By all means admire the tight little flourishes if that's what turns you on—sedate "shimmering" effects, like anal-retentive hairs on the back of Remy's coat (except I can't help recalling that last year's Happy Feet did much the same thing to considerably less applause—poetic evocations there, always a serendipitous ripple of abstract mass and line, of imagination in love with its own visual daring, whereas in Ratatouille it's mainly a matter of technique, something the animators do because they can, as part of a strict mimetic program). But all this emphasis on literal replication, what I've touched upon elsewhere as the homuncular urge, seems a creative dead end, as naturalistic painters discovered in the 19th century and, let's assume, computer animators will eventually also. Meanwhile there's "reality" and the imaginative cramp that comes with it. How very much like what we already know . . . except isn't that why we have live-action movies?

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