Tales of the Night


From France comes this classy animation featuring possibly the best use of 3D I’ve ever seen. It’s a pity that the impressive visual technology isn’t matched by the screenplay, however.

Tales of the Night is animated in a style intended to reflect shadow puppets. This means that all the characters in the foreground are represented as two dimensional black shapes with no further definition other than their eyes and sometimes one or two other features, such as jewellery or headgear. The backgrounds are colourful though similarly two dimensional. This is perfectly suited to 3D because, as I’ve mentioned before, 3D cinema doesn’t actually work in three dimensions; rather, it’s a series of 2D images in layers. The images we see in 3D films never seem truly curved, something which has always bugged me.Tales of the Night (Les contes de la nuit) In Tales of the Night, every single shot is a faultless example of the strengths of 3D. It’s an utterly immersive experience.

The film is a series of short stories – fairy tales, for the most part – and each chapter is heralded by a discussion of three writers/performers sitting in an auditorium, brainstorming ideas for the coming narrative. They traverse some wide terrain – for example, there is a story set in the Aztec Empire, a lycanthropic romance and another where our hero the subterranean city of the dead – however they are all voiced by the same few actors.

The film gets tiresome after the third story, which is about the time you realise that there is no thematic cohesion between the tales. If there were some sense of escalation, or something that tied them all together, then the film would have maintained my interest, but as it was, my attention began to wane.

As I said, the animation is superb, and there are several sequences that prove that modern whiz-bang CGI, with its obsession with colour and detail, isn’t the be-all and end all of animation (as I’ve pointed out previously with the likes of The Illusionist). The characters are as expressive as ever, even if we rarely get to see any expressions on their faces.

As a whole, however, Tales of the Night disappoints. The segmented storytelling is frustrating and becomes dull. As one or two short films, it would have worked, but as a feature it really required some kind of long-form narrative. Indeed, the film might work better if the stories were viewed in isolation.

Rating: 3 stars
Review by Stuart Wilson, 2nd August 2011
Hoopla Factor: 2 stars

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