8. The Painting
The art of this French 3D animated film directed by Jean-François Laguionie (original title: “Le tableau”) is inspired by great masters like Picasso, Modigliani, and Chagall.
The world of the painting of this tale is ruled by hierarchy; on the top, there is the stuck-up upper class: the Toupins. They are the characters completely finished by the painter, filled with colors and with strong contours. They don’t let the Pafinis (who are not complete, but usually only missing some colorant) and the Reufs (who are only sketches) to enter the castle and live freely.
The love between a Toupin boy and a Pafini girl inspires a tiny squad to find their creator, the painter, and ask them to make the differences vanish and finish every character so they can be equal. The Toupins, of course, are not happy with this idea.
9. The District!
The district where this animation takes place is the dodgiest you’ve ever seen; at least the dodgiest in Budapest (Hungary). In this ethnic melting pot, many nations are forced to share the filthy streets with each other and with the corrupt cops. Despite the circumstances, they manage to put together their skills for their common interest: money.
During this interesting and colorful story, Ricsi, a young gypsy boy, learns that love is not always enough to get to Juliet (originally Julia, the daughter of the local Hungarian pimp). This little city inside the city has its own rules, and above all, everybody in it has their own view of life and their own way to get what they want. But when the local kids find oil underground, the differences suddenly disappear and the economy of the world loses its balance as well.
Director Áron Gauder presents a story (original title: “Nyócker!”) which is vivid, funny and authentic, but also having a lack of dull moments.
10. Fritz the Cat
Robert Crumb has drawn comics from an early age, and he became probably the most iconic comic book artist of the liberal counterculture (according to him, after his first LSD trip). Based on his comics (same title), Ralph Bakshi wrote and directed the first X-rated American animated movie: “Fritz the Cat”.
Fritz is a resident of New York City in the 60s, led only by his instincts. He is mostly only looking for some fun, but he knows no taboos and makes no jokes about it. He jazzes up his days with ‘sex, drugs and rock and roll’ in a radical way. It is a freaky trip without borders filled with drug abuse, political incorrectness, incest, violence, and naturally some great fun.
The music and sound effects perfectly fit the ambient credited to Ed Bogas and Ray Shanklin. The songs of the film have been recorded by great artists like Billie Holiday and Bo Diddley.
The animation style is traditional (hand drawn), and the backgrounds in most of the scenes are painted in watercolor.
11. Heroic Times
This film is based on the epic poem trilogy of Toldi (also the name of the main character), written by János Arany. It is special for numerous reasons; director József Gémes chose a rare 2D watercolor technique and only a narrator (the characters don’t speak), and there are no sound effects apart from classical music to tell the medieval fable of a poor boy who, thanks to his strength, becomes the most well-known knight of the kingdom.
The motto of the story could be: “The road to the hell is paved with good intentions.” At the beginning of his life, Toldi has to live in the shadow of his villainous brother, and his life doesn’t turn out any less hectic later, either. It doesn’t matter that he is pure-hearted and his goals are noble; the violent way he reaches them puts him in trouble from time to time.
12. Blood Tea and Red String
This independent stop-motion feature film was created (nearly alone) by Christiane Cegavske and took her 13 years to finish, with an enchanting result.
Although the characters communicate verbally with each other, they don’t do it in a human language. The character design, the costumes, and the background create a gloomy, dark fairytale atmosphere. Watching it makes you feel like you are in a weird dream along with these particular creatures, living their life and experiencing their sometimes spooky rituals.
Cegavske introduced the viewer to her particular imaginary and eccentric world in a way that somehow makes you able to feel her love for her puppets and her dedication to the process, as it simply radiates through the film.
13. Mary and Max
Another heart-wrenching yet lovely stop-motion movie on this list is “Mary and Max”, directed by Australian filmmaker Adam Elliot.
Mary, a little Australian girl from the suburbs, is neglected by her alcoholic mother, has no real friends, and constantly feels rejected and lonely. Her pen pal, Max (voiced by Philip Seymour Hoffman), is an extremely anxious Jewish atheist in his 40s from New York City with list of mental and emotional problems (like most of the characters here). It may sound somewhat strange at first that these two are best friends, but truthfully, the relationship between Mary and Max is the purest and most innocent phenomenon of their life.
The world can appear to be a creepy place, and sometimes everybody needs a friend to make it bearable.
14. The Tragedy of Man
Award-winning director Marcell Jankovics spent more than 20 years (1988-2011) on this film, which is based on a Dante’s Inferno-like theatre play “Az ember tragédiája” (also the original title of this film) by Imre Madách. It is a monumental tour through the ages of humanity. The heroes of this story are Adam (the first human born on Earth) and Lucifer the fallen angel, who drives him through the past, the present, and the future.
It is not an easy watch (it’s the longest feature on this list), and for the first viewing, it could be challenging to understand it completely, since the director uses a highly symbolic language. On the animation side, you experience a magnificent variety; every age was drawn in a different genuine style, from the ancient hieroglyphs of Egypt to modern comic book inkings.
It is deeply philosophical, but is not a manual on how to form an ideology, so it is possible that instead of specific answers, there will be rather more questions in your head about your own existence after watching this great example of visual poetry.
Marjane Satrapi spent her childhood in Iran, and she published a comic book (“Persepolis”) based on her memories. Based on that, and with the help of French comic book artist Vincent Paronnaud, she directed this movie. The black-and-white 2D animation nearly completely mimics the graphic novel.
Watching the film, we get to know how life was in Tehran under the regime of Mohammad Reza Shah during the Iran-Iraq war from the point of view of the young Marji (the author herself). Among the daily struggles of surviving in a dictatorship and the times of the revolution, she tries to find a way to live the life of an average teenager. She wears the same clothes and listens to the same heavy metal and pop songs as the girls in Western countries.
When she is old enough to leave the country, her parents send her to a Catholic institution in Austria, which unfortunately doesn’t bring her the freedom she desired.
Author Bio: David Miklos a.k.a. Wally is a 27 years old sound technician, amateur comic book artist, musician and film enthusiast. He’s usually talking too much so his friends advised he should rather write down his thoughts. His publications such as this list are the results of this deal.