Saturday, July 30, 2016

Fantasia 2016--Psychonauts, The Forgotten Children--Pedro Rivero and Alberto Vazquez (2015)

Birdboy takes flight in Pedro Rivero and Alberto Vazquez's Psychonauts, The Forgotten Children (2015)
If you strapped me to a chair and demanded that I tell you, chronologically, the story of Pedro Rivero and Alberto Vazquez's magical animated film Psychonauts, The Forgotten Children (2015), I think I would have a pretty difficult time.  Not because there is no story (there is) or that it's not compelling (it is), but that the film swept me so fiercely along by its striking visual world that I wasn't always paying attention to the film's subtitles.  The film was much more a stunning series of vignettes about a blighted group of survivors of some kind of nuclear (or biological) disaster and their daily struggles on an island that looks like it's constructed on a giant pile of garbage.

A denizen of this trash-filled world, perched atop a pile of corpses
The lion's share of the film's pathos focuses on Dinky, a white mouse, who with her friends Sandra and Little Fox, attempts to leave the island for greener pastures.  Dinky is also pining for the troubled, drug-addicted Birdboy, a lonely bird who watched his father perish, and is constantly hunted by the local constabulary.  He, like many of the characters in this bleak world, must fight his inner demon, who in his case is a real fire-breathing razor-beaked creature.  Drugs seem to keep those demons at bay (as they do for so many of us).

Birdboy's inner demon unleashes its wrath
Describing the film's plot though does not even hint at the tumultuous emotions that this film evokes.  The anthropomorphized animal characters are often sweet and charming, and sometimes terrifying.  Some of the more violent images may not be suitable for the five and under crowd, but this film is so visually gorgeous, and at time, hilarious, that the film balances its scares with bouts of humor.  Inanimate objects are also anthropomorphized, so some of the best lines in the film revolve around these objects appealing to their owners.  Dinky's alarm clock has its own narrative arc, and the rubber dingy that Dinky and her friends purchase to make their escape is quite chatty as well.  You will never think about piggy banks in the same way again.

Birdboy has access to a magic world full of light
Psychonauts, The Forgotten Children maintains just the right amount of ambiguity to make it rich in allegory.  The film thoughtfully alludes to Spain's history and heritage, but that knowledge isn't required to be swept away by this masterpiece.  Fantasia brought in co-director Pedro Rivero to introduce and answer questions about the film, and he was one cool cat.  I really appreciated his dry humor, and that wry quality was really reflected in this animated wonder.  Here's a link to the film's website so that you can see more of the film's glorious imagery. Every frame is a work of art.  Highly recommended.