Le Roi et L'Oiseau : NZIFF Autumn Events Review
The King and the Mockingbird
With its sweeping angular vistas and its geometric city scapes as well as its story of a king from a picture chasing a chimney sweep and his lover, The King and the Mockingbird is wrapped in surreal edges.
Based on a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale and finished some 30 years after it was started, this fable comes in high regard.
Cited by Miyakai and Takahata as influences, the English version has been absent for years and is now playing at the Autumn Events.
The story centres on a king who becomes obsessed with a shepherdess in a picture. He rules his kingdom of Takicardia with a veneer of cruelty and a heart of stone. From his pursed ruby red lips to his dismissive tone, this king is surrounded by toadying helpers who feed his delusion through fear.
It's probably not helped by the fact the king has a trap door down which he dispatches those who annoy him. But the king falls for a painting of a shepherdess, and when a portrait of his is commissioned, the king springs to life from within and begins a pursuit of the shepherdess and her lover.
Guided by a mockingbird the duo try to escape the king's clutches as they race through Takicardia.
The King and The Mockingbird is a gorgeous curiosity.
Elements of early Disney characterisations pepper the animation; from an adorably eyed puppy to pot-bellied policemen, this all ages animation is a surreal treat that feels like it embraces all walks of animation.
The king struts at times like a peacock among the absurdist trappings; and the shepherdess' purity and clarity of execution make her feel like something from a Disney princess early on.
However, it's the bits around the edges of Le Roi et L'Oiseau that allow it to stand out and mark it as something spectacularly different.
A trip to the world under Takicardia via way of musicians feels like a Beatles-acid trip soaked influence; the Metropolis style leanings of the buildings, the Iron Giant-style robot that attacks; there are many wide and varied elements all thrown at the wall of this animation from France, and they're truly bizarre to behold.
But it's the creativity which shines in Le Roi et L'Oiseau and the ambition that helps its vault higher than expected. Not everything in it is as successful as you'd hope, but large swathes of the film are a testament to creative vision.
Blending chase aesthetics with a simple love story within prove to be fertile ground for this - and the big screen journey is well worth taking.