Tuesday, September 09, 2014

TIFF ’14: 8 Bullets (short)

A man who survived a violent attack on his family will seek revenge largely relying on his sense of smell. That will very likely be as problematic in practice as it sounds. Indeed, the protagonist’s memories and perceptions are all subject to question throughout Frank Ternier’s stylish but unsettling animated short 8 Bullets (trailer here), which screens during the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival.

Gabriel is a French expat living in Taipei. His backstory remains mysterious, but as we learn from the disembodied bystanders, he was the victim of a red-headed gunman’s vicious assault. Evidently, he wife was killed and his daughter was wounded in the leg, but Gabriel somehow survived a shot to the head, or at least that is the version he believes. Regardless, he has not been the same since that fateful day.

For the last six months, Gabriel has prowled the streets looking for a red-headed gangster who smells of fried food. He carries an equalizer, fully loads with said bullets for when he finds his prey. It is all very hardboiled, even though Gabriel’s sanity is clearly rather tenuous.

Ternier’s stylistic approach suggests the sort of films David Lynch makes are better suited to animation rather than live action. Although Ternier tells a strictly linear narrative, his visuals dramatically reflect the warped and unreliable perspective of his protagonist. He also nicely expresses Gabriel’s sense of otherness as a Frenchman in a foreign land.

While Ternier lays on the closing irony pretty heavily, his hip noir sensibility is rather cool overall. Most importantly, the animation is quite distinctive, evoking traditional watercolor techniques as well as contemporary comic art. Recommended for fans of animation and film noir, 8 Bullets screens again this Saturday (9/13) as part of Short Cuts International Programme 4 at this year’s TIFF.