Monday, June 19, 2006

Venice Beach

Director: Jung-Ho Kim, South Korea, 2003 4:30min

The film opens in a workout room that we quickly realize is for crabs only. Even though a small twig dumbbell is in focus in the front of the frame, our attention shifts to a crab emerging from the shadows in the back of stage left ready to workout. The shot opens up to reveal another crab on a punching bag and the first crab now running on a red treadmill. A third crab scurries in and surveys the room and goes over near the punching bag and starts imitating the crab's punching movements. Here we find a recurring theme of imitation and adoration and the next three minutes of the film this crab tries to fit in despite being a newcomer. His biggest challenge is trying to keep up the pace on the treadmill, which he attempts after the first crab by imitating his movements as he runs on the treadmill. However, just when you think the story is about Crab #3, a fourth crab enters and he too is out of place and awkwardly tries his luck at the treadmill. Soon he masters a good treadmill technique and leaves Crabs 2 and 3 in awe who then imitate him by emulating his successful treadmill technique.

Not surprisingly, yet interesting to note, is how cinematic this animated short is. The computer animator has captured great detail including the tile mosaic on the floor and every bump on the crab's claws. In addition, there is a variety of camera shots including the standard closeup and reaction shots featuring eyeline matches. Though this is an animation and the non-diegetic music is light-hearted, the film is still serious in tone. This could be my own interpretation due to the lighting. Each frame is dimly lit; only the focused objects (crab, treadmill, etc.) are bright and lit. Everything else is in shadows. This short features many dark browns and tans and shadows which add to a very non-Disney feel, which is in contrast to what is expected of animation. Because of this the gym appears ominous and threatening initially. This, to me, is very interesting; however, I am not sure if this is indicative of Asian animation. This short film won the Digital Art Award at the Grand Prix in Tokyo and I believe it was well-deserved. What really impressed me were the details! This appears to be a calling card film, I could see these characters being used again and their stories expanded upon. This short is humorous, cute, and yet at the same time, has serious undertones reflecting human behavior and the need to keep up with the "Joneses."


Christine said...

This was a funny, cute film. I agree the high quality of the digital animation was the best part.The images, and even the sounds of the crabs scurrying about, were sharp and seemed so real. The storyline was interesting, too, because we don't expect crabs to have a need for exercising and imitating one another in an artificial environment. That silliness can translate into our own pressures to keep up with the Joneses on society's other treadmills.

Jessica said...

I think this short begs to be examined through our discussion from class last week--what makes a "national" film? What about this film was Korean? There was no real dialouge in this piece so clearly language is not a factor. The title states that the crabs are in Venice Beach, so location is out. Does nationality only oplay a part by who is making the film or does content have to play a part as well?

Also, the fact that the first two crabs have to run sideways on the treadmill---hysterical.

rhead: a contraction for redhead said...

I find it difficult to think of anything to say about this film besides the few cursory compliments that Lindell and Christine have already listed (cute, technically virtuous, highly detailed) and the negative comments in a review of the film on ("annoying background music," "slowly developing plot," "WTF"). I don't blame the format of the short film for this difficulty but instead the simplicity of the film itself and the likelihood that it is nothing but a calling card for the animator, who I hope got his gob at Pixar.