Where’s the artist – and why has he abandoned his work in progress? Those are just two of the conundrums plaguing a cadre of motley characters in Jean-François Laguionie’s “The Painting” (2011), now making its U.S. debut.
These animated personages have good reason to be concerned, because they comprise the subject matter of the unfinished painting in question. The degree to which they’ve been sketched and painted determines their place in the rigid social strata within the canvas.
See trailer for “The Painting” HERE.
Situated on top are the full-spectrum colored Allduns, as in – you guessed it – “all done.” The partially painted Halfies reside in the next rung. The ghost-like Sketchies, whose colorless charcoal and pen-and-ink forms are especially despised by the Allduns, are relegated to the bottom. The artificial pretense of it all is lost on the Allduns, but obvious to the Halfies and Sketchies.
That’s the set-up. From here, a Romeo and Juliet romance between Ramo (an Alldun) and Claire (a Halfie) propels the story forward. If they can find the artist and explain their plight, maybe he will finish the painting and bring peace to their world.
When Claire disappears, Ramo and her good Halfie friend Lola set out to find her. Plume, a Sketchie, tags along. Their odyssey is fraught with danger. They have to navigate a cave of voracious “death flowers” that look like colorful, bee-attracting flora, but are actually people-eating monsters. In an enchanting sequence, they effortlessly jump out of one painting and blend into the next – a perpetual Venetian carnival.
Laguionie keeps “The Painting” visually interesting with various media – charcoal, pen-and-ink, pastels, water color, CGI, and even a dab of live-action. Stylistically, Picasso, Matisse, Chagall and Modigliani are well-represented.
It’s amazing what one can do with $6 million – the estimated budget of “The Painting.” Coming in at $230 million, Disney’s “Tangled” (2010) cost 37 times as much.
Most artistically inclined kids (and adults who can remember what it was like to inhabit a more diminutive physique) will have fun with “The Painting.” The best way to watch film – if you’re of a certain age – is to temporarily decommission your inner-adult, hop on board and enjoy the ride. That is, unless you relish the idea explaining to a wide-eyed eight year-old why the film’s ostensibly feel-good climax failed pathetically as an allegory for discrimination and class warfare.
One could make that argument, but “The Painting” can also be viewed as a parable in favor of freedom and creativity over group-think. You will never hear the expression, “colored people,” the same way again.
The film is being released in two versions: the original French with English subtitles and dubbed in English. Depending on how you feel about dubbing vs. original language-with-subtitles, the advantages and drawbacks are about the same for both animated and live action films. Check showtimes for the version you prefer.
There is some brief, above-the-female-waist nudity in “The Painting.” If you’re uncomfortable having your child accompany you to a museum featuring works like Eugenio Lucas Velazquez’s “Maja Dormiendo” (contemplating how to best finish this sentence is making my mind reel; OK, here goes) maybe you should consider an alternative form of entertainment.
Now it’s off to the doctor to see what she can to about those self-inflicted teeth marks on my tongue.
See playdates and locations for “The Painting” HERE.
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