Friday, February 23, 2018

New York International Children's Film Festival opens with LU OVER THE WALL

And we're off and running....
It was weird being at the SVA Theater for the Opening Night. While there is nothing wrong with the theater the fact that the better part of the previous two decades of the festival it opened at the Directors Guild just made things a little odd. For one thing this year Hubert and I didn't have to get on line super early because the theater seems much bigger than the Guild.

Still Opening Night is Opening Night which is all that matters. The film year is now truly underway and all is right with the world- at least cinematically.

The evening began as it always does with a speech from the stage, thanking everyone for coming, mentions of the sponsors and this year highlighting the new additions like ANIMAL JUBILEE,  BOYS BEYOND BOUNDARIES and FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS MEXICO. From there it was a quick T-shirt toss and we were off and running.

After a short piece on the NYICFF educational programs we got a modified version of the classic opening video.

Before the feature they ran ANIMATION (ACCORDING TO CHILDREN) which plays in Shorts One. It is a charming 2 minute piece where kids try to explain animation.

The feature was Masaaki Yuasa's LU OVER THE WALL and if you don't have tickets you're going to either wait on the stand by line for the remaining two festival screenings or wait until May when GKids releases it.

The film follows Kai, a depressed teen who relatively recently moved with his dad to his family's home town by the sea. Kai tinkers with music with hi computer and when his friends find out they try to get him into their band.  At the same time the town is supposedly the home waters for the mer-people. Many in the town don't believe they exist and those that do think they are evil and eat humans. However since they like music a mermaid named Lu comes into contact with Kai and his friends thus causing all sorts of complications as a result.

Joyous, wonderful and happy, LU OVER THE WALL is frequently one of the most viscerally emotional films you will ever see. In simpler terms it will move you to tears for no determinable reason other than it is just so damn cool.

I'm still processing it.

It is one of a kind and totally unique. The only way I can describe it is as if Hiyao Miyazaki went to Warner Brothers to make Ponyo with Tex Avery and Chuck Jones while John K offered suggestions while scoring it to an infectious J-Pop score that is perfectly translated in the English dub. That's not really what it is but it will put you in the ball park.

Animation style shifts depending on the moment.Masaaki Yuasa, like in his other films, isn't teathered to any one style and simply animates to what the moment needs. He then ties his images to one of the most perfect scores around. The resulting marriage of image and sound over rides the logic centers of the brain and tickles the heart strings.

I mention over riding the logic centers because to be quite honest the plot of the film is often messy. Clearly there is internal logic, it's just not always clear- which in this case is fine because the sound and image and characters carry the day.

I have no idea what to say other than I was moved to tears several times. Don't ask me why or how - I don't know. All I know is I was and am delighted it happened.

I am intentionally not telling you about the wonders contained in the film because you have to see them for yourself- though I will give you a clue and saw mer-dogs.

WOW and WOW.

I wish I had known they were playing this in English because I would have brought my niece who would have gone crazy for it.

This is a must see...and one you want to stay through the credits since there are little bits of animation that delight all through it with a parting shot that brought an audible sigh to those in the auditorium.

After the screening there was a members party in the lobby but because it was so crowded and because there were more movies on the schedule for tomorrow we headed out.

Thank you to everyone at NYICFF for a super Opening Night.
Opening Night Party

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