Director: Paul Grimaut Genre: Animation
Duration: 83 min Certificate: TBA
In French with English Subtitles
Thursday 28th December at 3.00pm
Sunday 31st December at 3.00pm
Le Roi et L’Oiseau (The King and the Mockingbird) is one of the true classics of animation in France, and although its renown and popularity haven’t made it across to this side of the channel, it has been a source of inspiration to many of the current generation of Japanese animators. Scripted by the celebrated poet, Jacques Prévert (who also scripted Quai de Brumes and Les Enfants du Paradis), designed by the master of French animation, Paul Grimault, based on a story by Hans Christian Anderson, Le Roi et L’Oiseau's credentials are impeccable and its reputation unassailable.
Originally conceived and created as a short animated adaptation of Anderson’s ‘The Shepherdess and The Chimney Sweep’ in 1952, the film was never finished by Grimault. He bought back the rights to the original print of his work twenty years later and collaborated again with Prévert interweaving Anderson’s story into a new creation, Le Roi et L’Oiseau. Working again with his old team of animators and a group of brilliant young animators, new sequences were added, each of the animators feeding of the others’ experience and freshness, contributing to create a classic of modern animation.
The immense kingdom of Takicardia is ruled by a king under the unwieldy title of Charles V + III = VIII + VIII = XVI. He’s a heartless ruler, hated by his people as much as he hates them. The king has a fondness for hunting, but is unfortunately cross-eyed – not that anyone would dare acknowledge this in front of him, as the numerous statues and paintings that adorn the palace and the land show. Occasionally the king does hit his target though, notably the wife of the bird, known only as L’Oiseau, the narrator of the story who takes pleasure in taunting the terrible king at every opportunity.
In his secret apartment, the king dreams of the beautiful Shepherdess whose painting he keeps on his wall, but the Shepherdess is in love with the Sweep whose hated portrait is on the opposite wall. At night the paintings come to life and attempt to escape from the palace, but are pursued by a non-cross-eyed painting of the king that also has come to life, deposed the real king and has taken his place. He orders the capture of the Shepherdess and the Sweep, but L’Oiseau is there to help when called upon. They are pursued to the depths of the Lower City where the inhabitants have never seen the light of the sun and strange creatures and bat-police take up their chase.
The animation is superb – beautifully designed sets and backgrounds full of technical marvels, wondrous caverns, towers, arches, Venetian canals and squares and vast palaces with Escher-like staircases. Each of the animators worked on their own characters, imbuing them with their own personality and characteristics – the king for example moves with the graceful fluidity of his creator, the chief animator Henri Lacam. Considering the amount of effort that went into acquiring a twenty year old film and the personal involvement that each of the creators put into the film, Le Roi et L’Oiseau is clearly a labour of love – and it shows. Rarely is animation so vital, so alive and so life-affirming – full of magic, wit, personality and imagination. It’s a style and philosophy that will be familiar to anyone who has seen the works of Hayao Miyazaki (Castle In The Sky, Castle of Cagliostro, My Neighbour Totoro) and the influence of Grimault’s masterpiece on the master of Japanese animation can be clearly seen throughout this film.