Kirikou and the Sorceress

94 minutes

The plots of animated features are often excuses for visual showboating, but here the lilting story line, based on west African folktales, complements the alternately sumptuous and austere images. Subplots blossom out of one another as Kirikou, a preternaturally self-possessed infant, sets out to defend his village against Karaba, a sorceress who's eliminated nearly an entire generation of warriors. Kirikou is as anxious to understand Karaba as he is to defeat her, and his precocious discussions with his mother and grandfather are metaphorical without being heavy-handed. The music by Youssou N'Dour is anything but incidental—like the shapes and colors in the animators' palette, it's an integral part of the storytelling. Likewise the sparingly used sound effects, whose interplay with the images reaches a peak when some furry animals show their appreciation for Kirikou's help by showering him with edible and aromatic gifts—a sequence that has the power to induce synesthesia. Written and directed by Michel Ocelot.

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