By: Henry J. Fromage (A Toast) –
The Red Turtle is a pretty singularly unique artistic collaboration: a French-Belgian-Japanese coproduction directed by a Dutch-British animator Michaël Dudok de Wit, whose short film caught the eye of the legendary Hayao Miyazaki and convinced him to search out de Wit and ask him to partner up.
Pretty much any animation director’s craziest dream scenario.
The Red Turtle tells a simple story of a shipwrecked man who struggles to survive on his desert island, and struggles even mightier to escape it, thanks to a giant red turtle that keeps preventing him from leaving.
Both Miyazaki and de Wit found the perfect partners in each other (not to mention very welcome third wheel Pascal Ferran, who’s mastered this mix of mundane and magical once before with his own live-action Bird People). The Red Turtle combines all of the best aspects both Studio Ghibli’s mastery of animation technique and narrative control and the European fablist and Francophonic comic style that The Little Prince drew on in parts.
The other great 2016 animated film not enough people will see.
Ghibli’s animation is gorgeously textured- just incredible. It’s lovely and impressionistic, with lines like Monet meets Hokusai meets St. Exupery. It’s just Beautiful. Hard stop.
The sound design is nearly as impressive, with much of the film almost entirely silent except for natural ambient noise and the man’s exclamations. A very unpretentious score by Laurent Perez Del Mar is perfectly deployed to subtly fill in the gaps and lightly promp mood-setting in more dramatic scenes.
The story itself is an often heart-pounding struggle for survival smashed up against this fantastical metaphor, with some evocative dream sequences that seem to envelop the film progressively. It becomes hypnotic, operating under its own logic and sense of time and place, but surprisingly emotional and powerful in its simplicity and matter of fact surreality. This is ultimately a metaphor for the passage of time and phases of a life as beautiful and impactful as any heart-tugging Pixar montage.
You know the one.
The Red Turtle is the most artful animated film this year by a mile, and hopefully the beginning of the passing of the Studio Ghibli torch to the next generation.
The Red Turtle (2016) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: for every jaw-dropping new locale
Take a Drink: for new animals
Take a Drink: for each escape attempt
Take a Drink: for dreams
Do a Shot: for crab food