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The Painting

Le Tableau 2011 | 78 min | Unrated | 1.85:1

The Painting


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Theatrical release date

 24 May, 2013

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Screenshots from The Painting Blu-ray

The Painting Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, May 23, 2013

In this line of work, one sees plenty of animated movies, and while there are natural variances in quality, most fall into a familiar structure, guaranteeing a certain box office response. The French production “The Painting” generally refuses the temptations of formula, displaying remarkable invention as it builds a unique world of art appreciation and adventure, using smarts instead of sameness to provide a richly detailed viewing experience that will satisfy the whole family. It’s sophisticated and stunning, amusing and harrowing, and quite possibly one of the most interesting pictures of the year, raising the bar for CG-animated pursuits.

Inside a colorful painting resides Ramo and Claire, lovers who have found it impossible to sustain their relationship in a complicated world of prejudice. Ramo is an Alldunn, perfected with striking colors; Claire is Halfie, missing crucial finishing touches that would make her acceptable to the Alldunn kingdom. Also populating the land are Sketchies, including Quill, imagined as a community of crude line drawings who never had a shot at Alldunn life, making them the object of scorn. Separated by a brutal caste system, Claire runs away into the Forbidden Forest, lost in dangerous area of unknown predators. Coming to the rescue is Ramo, who teams up with Lola, Quill, and reluctant soldier Magenta and ventures to the edge of the painting, discovering that the team can exit the canvas and enter the real world. Exploring other landscapes of art in The Painter’s workspace, the squad is confronted with previously unimaginable dangers, relying on their instincts and skills of evasion to survive.

“The Painting” is an indie animated endeavor, made for the catering budget on “Monsters University,” which is why it’s willing to take a few more risks than most Hollywood fare. The project emerges from the mind of co-writer/director Jean-Francois Laguionie, who dares to merge an art history class with action sequences, presenting the viewer with a thrillingly strange vision for education and entertainment, wrapped up tightly in a story about discrimination. “The Painting” has a few lessons to share on the incivility of society, and Laguionie handles the difficult material with comfortable broadness, keeping younger viewers invested in the tale of hardship and cruelty, allowing the message to sink in without pandering. Older audience members might respond to a few harsh turns of plot, including one that finds an Alldunn ruler stomping Quill’s innocent pal into the ground, ruthlessly doing away with what he deems to be a lesser being. While it’s engineered to keep children engaged, the feature never feels dumbed down for mass consumption, offering a few tense moments of threat and punishment to keep the movie as sharp as possible.

Perhaps the most thrilling section of the film is found when the gang realizes they can leap into other paintings, visiting a perpetual war zone where a conflicted Magenta resides, a nude that offers window passage to Venice and its never ending party, and a self-portrait who holds the key to The Painter’s (a man viewed as a deity to these creatures) previously impenetrable method. The crew also visits the graveyard of discarded and unfinished work, helping to provide some explanation as to why there are differences among the groups. The midsection of “The Painting” is lively and gorgeous, playing with technique, design, and color to generate a “Fantasia” atmosphere of fantasy investigation, complete with a stirring score by Pascal Le Pennec to support the mischief, which also includes pursuit from a Grim Reaper creation, adding a shade of horror to the effort.

“The Painting” is appropriately painterly in its style and patience, even dabbling in a little surrealism when the heroes must turn to a painting of The Painter to understand the nature of art and creation, and whatever it lacks in programmed zaniness, it makes up for in texture and mystery. There are few films like it, making it a must-see for animation enthusiasts and parents hoping to add a little culture to the lives of their children. In a marketplace of insistent product, here’s something that needs to be found, making its dramatic pleasures and craftsmanship worth the journey.

Director: Jean-François Laguionie

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