Friday, June 3, 2022

Adeus (1988)

... aka: Farewell

Directed by:
Céu D´Ellia

I've watched a number of animated shorts and features from Asia, Europe and North America but I believe this is my very first South American one. Makes perfect sense seeing how I primarily watch pre-1990 films and this was supposedly the first proper Brazilian animated short; one that utilizes classic animation techniques and is fully animated. The director was an entirely self-taught animator who learned his craft studying 8mm film frame-by-frame, making what he's accomplished here (which began production in 1984 and took four years to complete) all the more impressive. The strength of this 9-minute short enabled him to go work for the Amblin Entertainment subsidiary Amblimation in London, which made him the very first Brazilian animator to be hired by Hollywood. Founded by Stephen Spielberg in 1989, Amblimation only put out three films, starting with 1991's An American Tail: Fievel Goes West. Its star, Fievel Mousekewitz, also became the company mascot on the logo. In 1997, the company closed down for good after the box office failure of We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story (1993) and Balto (1995), and most of the people went to work for the newly-formed DreamWorks Animation. D'Ellia went on to many different jobs: animation assignments for Disney, environmental and charity work, running an animation studio and school in São Paulo and much more.

In some abstract realm, half-developed, statue-like people hang from everywhere, almost as if they're in the primordial process of melting or dripping. Every once in awhile, they emerge from beneath the earth. These forms make up large masses; some of which look like sprouts on vegetation or trees, while others almost resemble rock formations. There are occasional bursts of bright light that briefly and occasionally erupt on these masses; almost like fleeting sparks of life just waiting to ignite. One such eruption strikes a mass, resulting in the rapid growth of a cocoon, from which a horned yellow life form is born. Upon hitting the ground, the figure turns to blue with gray stripes.

The horned man starts creating various other life forms via the mouth (the breath of life?), coughing up lizards and then fish and then a huge rhinoceros. You'd think the latter would cause him problems, but nope. It's his fourth life form that spells his doom: Man. The human male who's birthed is dressed in 20s-style clothes, has a macho strut and a puffed out chest and even comes equipped with a gun. After chasing down the horned figure, the man promptly shoots it in the head for no apparent reason aside from the fact that he can. He's one of those assholes that probably dreams about going on a big game hunt in Africa, where he'll find a spot out of harm's way, gun down an elephant or lion and then act like he's some stud when in reality he's just a coward and a sociopath.

Blowing off the end of his gun after the kill, the man manages to resurrect a seductive woman wearing panties and stockings. The two hold hands and fly about the virtual scrap pile of dead figures Superman-style until they reach a giant toilet bowl (!) There, they start a courting dance of sorts, which ends with the man removing the woman's panties and then sliding down inside the bowl. When the woman looks down, she finds a fanged creature feasting on the man's remains. It shoots its tongue out, pulls her down and comes after her. She swims away but the small creature transforms into a larger one, with a giant Cyclops-like eyeball and hands filled with additional eyeballs. It grabs her and crushes her. What remains of her body then transforms into an insect, the Cyclops sprouts a head on its stomach and then starts eating everything in sight.

The animation almost devolves and becomes cruder as the short progresses. The visuals start out very intricate, complex, abstract and artistic, with beautifully hand-drawn work (I'd love to make a bunch of stills from this, blow them up, frame them and hang them in my home!) but end up simpler, messier, colored in a blotchier style and more child-like as it goes along. There's some graphic ani-nudity (fully naked female and an erection), so you probably don't want to watch this with your kids. As for what it all means, that's very much left open to viewer interpretation. The elements of reproduction, life cycles, human shittiness and death can go in many different directions. The end title screens likely shed some light on the director's intentions, though: "Life is a game. Death is its name. 40,000 children die each day in the third world. Nas trevas há de brilhar ("In the darkness shall shine") in the "third" world... Grüss got (Good day)."

According to the list of film festivals this played at listed in the credits, the earliest screening occurred in New York in 1988 (IMDb lists a 1989 release year). It also played in Los Angeles, Finland, Netherlands, France (at the prestigious Annecy International Animation Film Festival), in its home country and elsewhere."

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