Sunday, July 16, 2017

Fantasia ’17: Skin for Skin (short)

Call it Northern gothic. This macabre tale of karma could not possibly be more Canadian, because its ruthless protagonist is clearly and transparently based on Governor George Simpson of the Hudson’s Bay Company, a.k.a. “The Emperor of the North.” If you were an animal with a pelt, he was public enemy #1. However, he is about to shoot his last bird in Kevin D.A. Kurytnik & Carol Beecher’s Skin for Skin (trailer here), which world premieres at this year’s Fantasia International Film Festival.

When you kill as much as the “Emperor,” it creates an imbalance in the Force, even if they are just critters. His time has come. Thematically, Skin is somewhat akin to Nobuo Nakagawa’s Jigoku, but it is not quite so severe. The visually distinctive animation suggests the influences of N.C. Wyeth’s classic rugged adventure illustrations and Gustav Doré’s gothic Poe and Coleridge engravings. It is a dark film, but a beautiful one.

For years, Canada was the HBC, so it makes perfect sense for Kurytnik & Beecher’s film to premiere at Fantasia. It could very well be one of the most morbid, bloody, and surreal films to earn awards consideration at the end of the year. After all, it has a strong conservation message and the National Film Board of Canada has an impressive track record garnering Oscar nominations for its short films. Recommended for those who appreciate strong visuals (with a purpose), Skin for Skin premieres this afternoon (7/16), as part of the Outer Limits of Animation program at this year’s Fantasia.