As a thorough description of the earlier, more well-known period of René Laloux's life and work has already provided by Craig Keller's essay The Schizophrenic Cinema of René Laloux, I will but briefly touch on that and, instead, concentrate on his little-documented last decade or so.
Originally apprenticed as a woodcarver, the young René went through a sundry of jobs before and after the war, eventually settling into a position at a psychiatric clinic where he ran painting and shadow puppetry workshops for the patients. One of these shadow plays was filmed as Tic-tac (Tick-Tock, 1957); the success of this led to Laloux and the patients embarking on a cut-out animation film, Les Dents du singe (The Monkey's Teeth, 1960). In-between these, Laloux on his own had made Les Achalunés (The Achalunés, 1958), a more abstract animation using not cut-out paper but backlit, tinted glass.
Les Dents du singe went on to win the 1961 prix Émile Cohl, and it was at the ceremony for this that Laloux happened to meet the writer, illustrator, actor and all-round surrealist Roland Topor. He was to take up the role of designer and co-writer that previously been occupied collectively by the residents of the psychiatric clinic; this he did for a further two short cut-out animation films, followed by a feature, La Planète sauvage (The Savage Planet, 1973), which used the unorthadox method of un-jointed paper cutouts, repainted for each frame of movement in the manner of traditional animation.12
Jacques Dercourt, one of the producers, suggested the outsourcing to PannóniaFilm in Hungary, most likely through being impressed by their JANKOVICS Marcell-directed features. It was felt that while they lacked much of the technical skill and experience of the Czech animators, their more modern style would more easily mesh with that of Mœbius — however, Laloux and Giraud himself have ever since regretted this decision, and blame the animation's inconsistency, to an extent, on cultural divisions between themselves and the Hungarians.
A TV series, of a different kind, did however emerge in 1984 with the Revcom-produced De l'autre côté (On the Other Side) for France 3. A showcase for fantastic and science fiction animation, each twenty-six minute episode consisted of several short independent segments; these would go on to include two directed by Laloux himself and François Bruel's long-running series Ernest le vampire (Ernest the Vampire, 1984–1990).
Another short for De l'autre côté, Comment Wang-Fô fut sauvé (How Wang-Fô Was Saved, 1987) was made by the same staff arrangement during the production of Gandahar and also shown before it in cinemas.
À l'ombre du dragon (In the Shadow of the Dragon), based on Serge Brussolo's À l'image du dragon (In the Image of the Dragon, 1982), would have been Laloux's fourth feature film, but never came to be — production began in 1992, but was cancelled in 1996 when the designer, Patrice Sanahujas, finally died of the leukaemia which he had been fighting against for almost four years. All that was completed is a teaser trailer, consisting of concept art set to music.
Not wanting to continue with a project now tainted by the death of a collaborator, Laloux abandoned À l'ombre and moved onto what would have been his most atypical feature — an adaptation not of a science fiction nor fantasy novel, but the magical-realist L'Œil du loup (Eye of the Wolf, 1984), a very popular book for children by Daniel Pennac (only recently published in English). However, this project came up against problems of its own — financial, this time, and the film was downgraded from feature-length to half-hour. Laloux himself could bear to condense the adapted screenplay any further, and so handed it over to Hoël Caouissin. The film, which, for once, retains the original title of the book, was completed in 1998; the French DVD has an optional English dub but no subtitles.
The Brussolo adaptation, much like Gandahar, was also to be resurrected about a decade after its initial conception — not under Laloux and Sanahujas, but Philippe Leclerc (assistant director of Gandahar and an animator on Paul Grimault's films) working with none other than Philippe Caza as designer. This new film had its title rotated, yet again, to Les Enfants de la pluie (Children of the Rain, 2003), and, with its colourful, African-influenced visuals in contrast to Brussolo's more traditional, Nordic setting, is distinctly post-Kirikou. In March the following year, Laloux sadly followed Sanahujas, Topor and Stefan Wul, never having made that fourth feature film of his own.
- Tic-tac (Tick-Tock, 1957, short film)
- Les Achalunés (The Achalunés, 1958, short film)
- Les Dents du singe (The Monkey's Teeth, 1960, 14 min. short film)
With Roland Topor
- Les Temps morts (Dead Times, 1964, 10 min. short film)
- Les Escargots (The Snails, 1965, 12 min. short film)
- La Planète sauvage (The Savage Planet, 1973, 72 min. feature film)
- Le Jeu (The Game, 1975, short film)
- Les Maîtres du temps (Masters of Time, 1982, 78 min. feature film)
- La Maîtrise de la qualité (Quality Control, 1984, short film)
With Philippe Caza
- Les Hommes-machines (The Machine-Men, 1977, pilot film)
- La Prisonnière (The Prisoner, 1985, 7 min. TV special)3
- Comment Wang-Fô fut sauvé (How Wang-Fô Was Saved, 1987, 15 min. TV special)
- Gandahar (1988, 83 min. feature film)
With Patrice Sanahujas
- À l'ombre du dragon (In the Shadow of the Dragon, cancelled feature film)
- L'Œil du loup (The Eye of the Wolf, 1998, 26 min. short film)
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