After the tender and upsetting Ma vie de Courgette by Claude Barras in 2016, it is Lou and the siren island’s turn to conquer the last jury of the Annecy animated film festival, by winning the Cristal du long footage. Truculent and lyrical, does the work produced by Masaaki Yuasa deserve the interest we have in it?
Winner of the Annecy animated film festival this year, Lou and the siren island deserves to be known to the general public. Masaaki Yuasa’s feature film takes viewers into a particularly colorful fantasy world that breaks free from the traditional codes of animated films. Far from a Disney classic, the work tends rather towards the fantastic current initiated by the master Hayao Miyazaki, a psychedelic touch in addition.
Kai’s life is a dreary routine. In the village of Hinashi where he lives with his father and grandfather, he occupies his days composing electronic music, when he is not spending them in class. The schoolboy puts his creations online and Yuho, one of his classmates, one day discovers his true identity. She then tries to convince him to join the group she forms with Kunio. Kai reluctantly agrees and decides to accompany his comrades to a mysterious island for a rehearsal. While the place had been forbidden to him by his grandfather, the teenager overrides the warning out of curiosity. That same evening, he will meet an incredible young mermaid named Lou. The little creature has a peculiarity, it can not help dancing and / or singing when it hears music. But their budding friendship will soon be threatened, when the villagers find out about Lou’s existence. Certain inhabitants will then reserve a threatening reception to him, for fear of the tenacious legends on these fantastic beings.
A shimmering universe
At first glance, the waltz of colors chosen by Masaaki Yuasa has something to surprise spectators accustomed to wise or monochrome universes. But it is easy to imagine that the youngest audience will not be in the least surprised by this cinematographic rainbow. Attention is drawn quickly enough in this rich palette, which serves to better understand and differentiate the characters, places and atmospheres. The example with Kai, our hero, who apart from his school uniform, has a wardrobe in dark and cold shades represented by his navy blue t-shirt and charcoal shorts. Reflecting the image of someone withdrawn, solitary, not unlike a certain Branch in The Trollsby Dreamworks. It represents the complete opposite of Lou, the sparkling mermaid with a disproportionate smile symbolized by watery hair, a candy pink body and a seaweed dress.
From lifelike details to vivid scenes
Two major elements contrast particularly in this feature film, namely the alternation between places and objects of everyday life sketched with precision, in opposition to the simplified features of the characters. For the former, the details are pushed with a precision close to realism. Beside, the appearance of the characters would seem almost too raw. But the alchemy takes and this characteristic distortion of Massaki Yuasa knows how to blend into the whole. The paw of the Japanese director will in any case not leave indifferent, whether it likes it or not.
The plot is not unlike that of the Ponyo on the cliff of Hayao Miyazaki. Of course, the two stories tell of the meeting of a mermaid and a boy. Except that where Miyazaki remains more in his poetry, Yuasa does not hesitate to bring his film to a more quirky and laughing universe with a touch of eccentricity. But make no mistake, if the two feature films are only alike on certain points, one will not make the other hate the other. We can even salute the freshness of Lou and the siren island , which opens a new path in animated films.
It is impossible to evoke Lou and the island of sirens without lingering for a moment on its soundtrack. The feature film is punctuated by a daring and dynamic composition, as one would expect to suitably accompany these characters linked by music. We will particularly remember the songs that add a fiery atmosphere to the most zany scenes. The film advances, moving from one musical genre to another without the slightest complex, sometimes at the risk of confusing ears accustomed to Miyazaki’s delicate compositions.
A true musical interlude and intensely colorful, Lou and the Siren Island is a curious and fascinating figure. Able to amaze as much as to question the spectators, this feature film deserves the attention paid to it. Masaaki Yuasa expresses his talents without complex, to which we adhere or not.