Film industry great Barry J.C. Purves opened Montreal’s second annual Stop-Motion Film Festival with a glorious sequence of animation classics, along with several of his own clips.
Passionate, theatrical, and above all, knowledgeable, Purves guided the audience through the epitomizing moments of cinema and stop-motion history, from obscure student films, to the original Hong Kong, all the way to classic Hitchcock.
“Truth comes out of artificiality, and I think that is really what animation is about,” said the filmmaker.
The internationally-acclaimed stop-motion director, best known for his short films Next, Rigoletto and Screenplay, was unassuming and far from pretentious. In fact, from behind his chic black cardigan and finely-combed hair, he admitted to the audience that he wished he had a feature film to his name, and was a greater success.
His energy not waning for one second, the 55-year-old British puppeteer, animator, director and producer showed the audience clips from the English play Warhorse, The Sound of Music, Mary Poppins, the famous ballet “Still Life’ at the Penguin CafÃ©, King Kong, and others.
“I have been playing with dolls for 33 years, and I love it,” declared Purves. “I still have a teddy from the day I was born. His name is Poo.”
Purves’ zeal for animation was almost exhausting, but nothing short of inspired. Every short clip he played was used to point out creative use of settings, props, sound, characters and expression. He emphasized the importance of externalizing emotion through animation.
His dedication to the precision of simple movement could be felt throughout the room.
“When [Purves] is using examples, when he shows the clip of a movie, he also explains it. For me, that’s gold, because it goes beyond being just a guy who is saying something; he’s also proving it,” said Thierry Brodeur, a third-year animation student at Concordia.
Purves had many words of wisdom for young animators, mostly encouraging them to embrace the simplicity of animation, and not try to copy real life.
“I was very happy, because I thought he would just introduce his films in a few minutes and we would watch, but in the end he gave a whole master class, and it moved me greatly,” said Claire Brognier, an audience member.
The creator admitted several times to weeping at the beauty of a life-changing film 8212; of which there were several 8212; only to declare later that he was often criticized for being overly-dramatic. It is to be noted that such critics were not far off the mark.
The relationship between the puppet and the animator was acknowledged on more than one occasion. In fact, the puppet was awaiting the audience at every turn.
“[Animation] uses the elements of music, color, design and movement to say something that the characters can’t 8212; for whatever reason, be it gender, social or political reasons 8212; express themselves,” continued Purves.
Purves’ attention to detail and love of the industry were demonstrated in his own pieces, works which he took turns unabashedly criticizing and praising.
“It seems the more high-tech films like Avatar are getting, there still remains an appetite for one man, standing on a stage, telling a story, and there always will be,” he concluded.
The Montreal Stop-Motion Film Festival, which ran at Concordia Friday through Sunday, could not have been introduced in a more awe-inducing light, even for members of the audience who were not familiar with the art form.