TATSUMI - SLIFF Review - We Are Movie Geeks

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Review by Dane Marti

This is my third Anime reviewed for the St. Louis Film Festival and I’m always reminded how beautiful, kinetic and ALIVE this form of cinema can be! Animation Rocks. Okay – I said my piece. Now back to reality: The Review. Eric Khoo directed this wild and incredible film. Hopefully he is pleased with his finished product it’s truly cool, as well as other adjectives, which I won’t get stuck writing at this moment. The point is… this film is very good.

Actually, I’m a little shocked. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy and appreciate this animated film as much as I did. Unlike the two previous colorful and inventive films which blended history and fantasy with epic legend, this film is a completely different type of beast altogether.

As a person who has written, drawn, painted and other creative pursuits, I’ve always enjoyed the biographies of famous artists. This is one of those stories.

Based on the true life of the well-known Manga Artist Yoshiro, this is a serious and often harrowing cinematic tale. Manga for any of you readers that’s been living under a non-rolling rock, are Japanese comics, the equivalent of American Comic Books and Graphic Novels. From the world of sequential storytelling art in book form to the moving images of motion picture animation, or, in Japan, Anime, this creative work is extremely popular. Also, the interest is growing across the world, not just in Japan or other Asian countries.

Obviously, this film moves, but the drawings are often similar to pen and ink line drawings of realistic people: Definitely not the type of cartoons in strips, comic books or animation which is popular with young folks interested in fantastic wizards, happy dwarves, demonic warriors and spectral beings from other planets. No, this movie is about average people, some poor and alienated from life, which struggle for survival in the modern world. Occasionally, they have tragedies, such as losing an arm in a factory accident. Or near the start of the movie, a Noir-type tale that begins right after the unbelievable carnage and horror of the bombing of Hiroshima.

Sometimes the scenes/stories are animated in a tinted blue or sepia wash. In other scenes the film is in black and white – even scratched. As in life, there are moments of blood shed. The fact is, as much as I often love fantasy, it is wonderful to see animation from Japan that takes on the dramatic lives of so-called Ordinary folks.

What is such a revelation for me is to see some of the dramatic, expressionist and shadowy elements. I mention Film Noir, but that isn’t completely correct; it’s much broader than that. The Artist, the Manga he draws so cleverly and the stories imbedded in Tatsumi are akin to potent acid burning into sheet metal. Although animated, these stories could have as easily been filmed in live action, been a part of a documentary  – been something which had happened to your neighbor down the street: These stories are universal, tales of humanity that are harsh, unforgiving, lovely, sweet and Real.

I loved this Animated Japanese film. Frankly, the movie was a revelation to me.

TATSUMI plays at the St. Louis International Film Festival Sat, Nov 10th at 4:30pm at the Plaza Frontenac Cinema and Sat, Nov 17th at 3:15pm at the Wildey Theatre

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