Monday, April 11, 2011

Sylvain Chomet

Sylvain Chomet represents the renewal of classic animation at it's highest level. His beautiful designs contradict strongly with the specific style of 3D animation. The beauty of watercolour counter acts with the clean and sharp look of 3D modelling, though this is not always the case. Chomet himself uses 3D, even though he does hid it beneath his style. Though Chomet is the mind and art behind his films, his production are truly international, with work being done in France, Canada, the UK and more. His career started in the bande-dessinee(BD) an art form so dear to the Belgians and French. This heritage can be seen throughout his work.

Chomet started his studies in Angouleme, in the newly opened art school, to study bande-dessinee. Their he met Nicolas de Crecy, a now extremely influential BD author. It his De Crecy's unique style that is seen throughout Chomet's backgrounds, the characters being mainly his. Their association resulted in “Leon la Came”, and darkly humorous tale of an old man finding his grand-son, victim of constant stomach issues, and helping him to succeed in life. The story doesn't stop their, being full of bizarre and interesting caricatured characters. Chomet wrote the script, and De Crecy drew everything. This first major work, which is now considered a genre-defining classic, already shows the direction Chomet would follow in his career. This is also the style he would choose for his backgrounds, as shown in his first 30 minutes animation, “La Vieille Dame et Les Pigeons”. Their again De Crecy and Chomet collaborated in what is a superb piece of animation. The nervous style of De Crecy married to perfection the characters of Chomet.

Chomet is now a clearly established on the 7th art scene. His unique style has seduced people around the world, giving a new life into 2D animation.

Chomet works with his time. Is style is unique, and while he does prefer the 2D illustrative medium, it does not mean that he only ever uses that. His use of 3D is always subtle, yet incredibly efficient. In an interview, he explains more about his process and the reason for it. He uses 3D mainly to represent vehicles, such as cars and bicycle. Drawing a bicycle is difficult, animating it even more, and the Triplettes de Belleville included a lot of them. He says that asking an animator to animate a bicycle was close to suicide. This when 3D comes in, as it allowed easier animation, and after receiving a clever texture, would completely melt into the style of the film.
Sylvain Chomet has a particular view of animation. He sees it as an art form, not simply as a commercial way of making money. He believes in the human adventure, and as Fiachra Gibbons, from the Guardian says, this “doesn't quite explain why Chomet, having had Hollywood studios falling over themselves to accommodate him after the huge and unexpected worldwide success of Belleville Rendez-Vous (or The Triplets of Belleville, everywhere but the UK), decided to set up shop in Edinburgh, which has little or no tradition of animation and only a tiny pool of artists to draw on. He is not quite sure why either. But he did.” (Gibbons:2010)

He greatly enjoys the non-speaking cinematographic technique. All of his animated films, from La Vieille Dame et Les Pigeons, Les Triplettes de Belleville to L'Illusioniste, don't include much dialogue. This stylistic decision is easily explained by the experienced animator himself. Chomet says in an interview given to Animation World Network: “I’m very involved with the whole “line test” thing. For me, when you’ve worked all day on an animation and that moment when you see the drawings move, that’s a really magic moment, and there is no sound to it. I also think that an animation without the constraints of spoken words is stronger. If you have to fit everything to the words, all the gestural movement revolves around the mouth. Without it, you are much freer to create true animation, to talk through animation itself. Animation modelled around the dialogue is like something, which has already been set in stone, there’s less scope for interpretation. I have always wanted the animators to bring something to it.” (Moins after Chomet:2003)
Animation is the art of movement and dynamics. By giving free reign to his instinctual drawing, One thing that really shows, is his heritage as a comic artist. He started his career wanting to be a humoristic newspaper illustrator. This shows in his extremely caricatured style. His style has matured over time, loosing its eccentricity, but gaining in assurance and class. His first animated film, La Vieille Dame et Les Pigeons, took the style to an extreme, the first design elements of the Triplettes present already. Yet the drawing was much sharper, its harsh lines exaggerating the form. In the Triplettes de Belleville, the line smoothes out but keeps the exaggeration of his beginnings. In L'Illusioniste, the exaggeration is almost lost, but a smooth and incredibly efficient line is found.

Chomet stays very critical of how animation is perceived in the world. Yet his view would not be called “passé”, but actually quit avant-garde. He is bringing an art form back to its original level. Animation had lost some of its magic and incredible results. Chomet is bringing it back. His lack of trust in Americans is interesting to point out. He sees the American industry, not the people, as being extremely preoccupied with money rather than the actual beauty of the film itself.

After the critical success of the Triplettes of Belleville, he agreed in an interview that: “At Cannes, I got the reception, which I would have expected from Annecy. And at Annecy, it was just absolutely crazy. The film has already notched up one of the highest foreign sales scores for a recent French production. Before Cannes, 25 countries had already acquired the film; it’s now 37, including the U.S., which was initially quite wary, as usual. I’m worried about the Americans. Will they cut some things out? I know that a lot of there appreciate my work. The problem is that the people in charge at the big companies are rather more censorious.” (Moins after Chomet:2003)

Sylvain Chomet has revived the art of 2D animation. Classical Animation is still being done around the world, but Chomet has given it an extra edge. He has succeeded in making it inimitable. His films would only work in 2D, and their success shows. His next project has everything of a masterpiece already written on it. Set in the Commune in Paris, in the late 1900’s, not much information has been leaked yet. The last hint Chomet gives us is a simple name. Baudelaire.


Visited on the : 05/04/2011 Philippe Moins – Sylvain Chomet interview.
– Fiachra Gibbons
Visited on the : 05/04/2011
– Claudine Mulard
Visited on the : 05/04/2011

– CHOMET, S. – De CRECY, N. 2002. Leon la Came. Casterman

Image Reference

– Image 1: Sylvain Chomet: La Vieille Dame et Les Pigeons

– Image 2: Sylvain Chomet: Les Triplettes de Bellevilles.

– Image 3: Sylvain Chomet: Les Triplettes de Bellevilles. 

– Image 4: Sylvain Chomet L’Illusioniste.


tutorphil said...

Very authentic review here, Paul - bodes well for the Unit 5 essay - I hope!

Meanwhile - I saw this, thought of you:

Paul Lemarquis said...

Thanks for the link,

Well, I hope you enjoy my essay though it might not be too different...

Paul Lemarquis said...

Very nice paintings