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CANNES 2009 Special screenings

Panic on the Croisette


Panic on the Croisette

Yesterday evening, the 62nd Cannes Film Festival hosted a midnight screening of the unusual Belgian film A Town Called Panic [+see also:
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, triggering a hilarious session of collective hysterics.

The title is a perfect example of a film made for children by children. Admittedly, the two directors Stéphane Aubier and Vincent Patar have a combined age of just over 80 and the film’s viewers yesterday evening were not exactly infants. But with its outlandish side and distinctive way of transcending traditional narrative structures, A Town Called Panic revives the craziness of childhood, and offers hope that six-year-old children still prefer playing at Cowboys and Indians rather than with their Playstation.

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Is the world of animation passionate about 3D? This doesn’t seem to matter to Patar and Aubier, who stick to plastic figurines and the good old technique of stop motion.

More than ever in animation, everything is possible, and the plot follows its absurd course, being careful to include essential and well-chosen touches of realism. While Cheval, Cowboy and Indien are catapulted to the centre of the Earth in a story of excess bricks, Madame Longrée, alias Jacqueline, loses all hope of one day being able to offer Cheval the music lessons for which he is enrolled.

Fond of their figurines, Patar and Aubier keep their bases, which are used not as springs for their characters, but as comical handicaps. The directors also play on literalness, with the farmer’s wife, for instance, dragging around her indispensable milk jug at all times.

The film is full of strokes of inspiration, scattered in each shot. The characters navigate an absurd world peppered with everyday details. Cheval brushes his teeth using an automated arm (after all he’s not going to use his front legs).

Also worthy of praise is the performance by the voiceover actors, including Jeanne Balibar, as a delightfully mellifluous Jacqueline, and Benoît Poelvoorde as an impeccably irascible Steven.

A Town Called panic is a three-way co-production helmed by La Parti, between Belgium (La Parti, les Films du Grognon and Beast Productions), France (Made In) and Luxembourg (Mélusine). Backing was received in Belgium from the French Community of Belgium Film Centre, the Vlaams Audiovisual Fund, Wallimage, and the Tax Shelter fund.

The film will be launched in Belgium by Cinéart on June 17, and is expected for French release in October (Gebeka). International sales are being handled by The Coproduction Office.

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(Translated from French)

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