Gallery: Cannes Film Festival

19 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Inside Out': Cannes Review.

Pixar went underwater with “Finding Nemo”, into the toybox with “Toy Story” and now it’s going inside our brains with its latest, “Inside Out”.A ‘60s avant-garde head trip repackaged as a big slice of mainstream entertainment, Inside Out could easily have been titled Childhood’s End, as it ingeniously personifies the furiously erupting sensations associated with the onset of adolescence as a bunch of emotionally competitive cartoon characters.The Disney Animation Studios/Pixar chief and animation icon was reflecting on the boom experienced over the past two decades in his industry and how it was born out of a false assumption that animation was solely for children. “We were so inspired by the revolution in the late ’70s by the work of Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Martin Scorsese and this amazing work that was going on and how these films were so entertaining audiences, we felt that we would like to do this for animation,” he said. “But we never stopped that belief that animation can be and should be for everyone, and should be entertaining people all around the world with great stories.

Pixar chief John Lasseter, left, and director Pete Docter say ‘Inside Out,’ which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, explores universal themes.(Photo: Lionel Cironneau, AP) CANNES, France — Before Pixar’s Inside Out was officially unveiled Monday at Cannes Film Festival, director Pete Docter felt confident that the world could be moved by a story taking place inside an 11-year-old American girl’s mind. “Regardless of where you grow up in the world, we’re all human,” Docter told USA TODAY. “These emotions are pretty universal.On paper, “Inside Out” sounded like another lunatic gamble: an adventure that takes place entirely within the head of an 11-year-old girl, featuring her Emotions as characters — although if anyone could pull off a logline like that, it would be the team that made us care about rats who cook, toys that bond, and robots who fall in love. This latest conceptually out-there creation from Pete Docter (Monsters, Inc.; Up) serves up some abstractions and flights of deconstructive fancy that will most likely go over the heads of viewers with ages in the single digits. Ahead of an important screening for his bosses at Pixar Animation about two years ago, the director was wrestling with a thorny story problem on his next film, “Inside Out.” “This one moment is funny, but I don’t know what the movie as a whole is saying,” Docter recalled thinking to himself as he walked the hills near his home in Piedmont, Calif. “How did things get so far and we still don’t have anything?

Hopefully, no matter where you are or what your culture, you can see yourself in this.” The movie’s Cannes screening was greeted with universal applause. Sure enough, in execution, Pixar’s 15th feature proves to be the greatest idea the toon studio has ever had: a stunningly original concept that will not only delight and entertain the company’s massive worldwide audience, but also promises to forever change the way people think about the way people think, delivering creative fireworks grounded by a wonderfully relatable family story. The film delves into the imagination – literally – by portraying human emotions of Joy, Anger, Disgust and Sadness as distinct characters, who sit at the control panel in the mind “Headquarters” of a young girl, Riley. But this adventurous outing manages the great Pixar trick of operating on two levels — captivating fun for kids, disarming smarts for adults — that sets the studio apart. It also no doubt helped get Pixar’s latest offering, Inside Out — directed by Pete Docter — a plum slot in festivals such as Cannes, although someone might want to tell Amy Poehler that it’s not in the running for the Palme d’Or. “It’s not up for the Palme, but it can still win, right?

I’m gonna get fired.” It is likelier that Pixar would fire Luxo Jr., its desk lamp mascot, than Docter, a beloved figure at the studio who is known for bringing emotional depth and a childlike wonder to his films. Although the outward physical story of the script by Docter, Meg LeFauve and Josh Cooley traces the difficult adjustment suffered by tomboyish 11-year-old hockey player Riley when she’s uprooted by her parents from an idyllic Minnesota life to an unfriendly San Francisco, the real setting is inside the girl’s head.

The film stars Poehler as the emotion Joy alongside Mindy Kaling’s Disgust, Bill Hader’s Fear, Lewis Black’s Anger and Phyllis Smith’s Sadness working together in the headquarters of a child’s mind. “I went up to Pixar and I cried,” said Kaling about her first trip to the company’s offices to read the script. “They showed me the story and I started weeping. Docter’s last feature, the Oscar-winning 2009 adventure tale “Up,” contained both a moving, wordless montage about infertility and death and a talking, squirrel-obsessed golden retriever named Dug. Objectively speaking, several of the studio’s previous films work better in terms of character appeal or narrative accomplishment (though when it comes to cartoons, playing favorites is inevitably a subjective game). It’s a highly combustible place, a control room staffed by the buoyant, blue-haired Joy; red, top-blowing Anger; purplish, equivocating Fear; green, eye-rolling Disgust and squat, all-blue Sadness.

Luckily, they weren’t too scared off by that.” Lasseter later described the Inside Out cast as “one of the most talented” in Pixar history. “They helped us create these characters. The emotions of ‘Inside Out,’ from left, Anger (voiced by Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), Joy (Amy Poehler), Fear (Bill Hader) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith). (Photo: Pixar via AP) The media conference also was unusual because it presented two casts. The English-language version of the picture features the voices of “Parks and Recreation” star Amy Poehler, “Twin Peaks” actor Kyle MacLachlan and the ever-adaptable Hollywood actress Diane Lane. The mind, as we know, is a hectic place with all sorts of things bouncing around in it, and Docter and his team have visualized it in very antiseptic, almost ’60s TV Star Trek fashion, as a room centered around a control panel and lined with shelves and tubes where memories and thoughts are stored.

Joy has always held sway in Riley’s heretofore happy life; but now, faced with a depressing new home, an unfamiliar school, no friends and the loss of her old hockey team, Sadness, with assists from the others, is definitely ascendant. The story line asks audiences to accomplish the psychologically sophisticated task of watching our own minds — a reviewer at Cannes called “Inside Out” “one the most conceptually trippy films ever made as a PG-rated popcorn picture.” If critics felt Pixar has been playing it safe with its recent spate of kid-friendly sequels, they’re not likely to feel that way now. Sitting alongside them were the French counterparts who voiced the emotions for French-speaking audiences: Charlotte Le Bon (Joy), Marilou Berry (Sadness), Gilles Lellouche (Anger) and Pierre Niney (Fear).

Just when her Emotions think they’ve got everything under control, Riley’s parents decide to move from Minnesota to San Francisco, sending her Emotions into turmoil — because it’s not enough for Pete Docter and co-director Ronnie Del Carmen to introduce such a compelling model for how the brain really works; they’re also expected to craft an interesting story around it. Other animations that have launched in Cannes in years past include “Up” from Pixar, and “Shrek” and “Shrek 2” from rival studio DreamWorks. It all flashes by very quickly, but at night control passes over to the long-term memory bank (which is hilariously seen at one point being divested of such content as piano lessons and the names of U.S. presidents), and there is a literal train of thought. When we got the first recordings and played them, everyone just screamed about how great it was.” Up — also directed by Docter — opened Cannes in 2009, going on win two Oscars, including best animated feature. “2009 was the highlight of our lives.

For the first 11 years of Riley’s life, her Emotions have stood crowded around an instruments panel of what looks like an air-traffic control tower inside her head. Lanky, wide-eyed and sincere, Docter, 46, carries himself more like a kid with particularly good manners than a grown-up — this temperament works well at Pixar, a spiritually youthful company that was celebrating Wear Your Pajamas to Work Day and hosting a chocolate festival. “She would be at home and be tap dancing and doing all that goofy stuff, and we first heard of it through her teacher, who’d say, ‘Elie’s a quiet child,’ ” Docter said. “We’d say, ‘Really?’ She suddenly became aware of judgment and where do I fit in and where is my social circle. Amusingly swift glimpses into the minds of other characters suggest everyone is wired more or less the same way, while still allowing for wild variation in the efficiency of the five Emotions they’ve been dealt. He used Disney’s upcoming animated musical Moana, set in the South Pacific and about a Polynesian princess, as an example of this changing focus. “I guess most people think of fairy tales as European fairy tales,” he said “We’re trying to reach out and find origins of legends all over the world.” As it is, Joy and Sadness take a trip down the rabbit hole of Riley’s fraying psyche, which leads into very foreign and internalized territory as far as mainstream animation is concerned.

Her emotions, led by Joy, a yellow sprite voiced by an exuberant and occasionally manic Amy Poehler, live in relative harmony, steering her together through childhood’s ups and downs like the crew of the Starship Enterprise. But in recent years, it has been in danger of being overshadowed by Disney Animation Studios, which made the top-grossing animation of all time, “Frozen”. Cannes, therefore, is a prestigious fillip for Pixar, and market watchers are seeing if “Inside Out” can succeed in maintaining its profile against the competition it faces – inside and out. What this looks like from the inside is a turbulent, decomposing landscape traversed by an increasingly desperate Joy and her ever-present companion Sadness, whose exile has seen Disgust, Fear and Anger completely assume control of Riley. It’s full of amusing nooks and crannies, like Imagination Land and the more sinister Subconscious, which this fantastic voyage takes time to visit along the way, giving composer Michael Giacchino the chance to augment his heartening score with separate mood-appropriate themes for each of these realms.

For Docter, being part of Disney is only positive. “Disney, you know, when they bought Pixar, they were like, ‘OK we paid a lot of money for these guys, we don’t want to break anything.’ And so far, it (the studio) really has remained autonomous.” The outcasts endure a perilous journey during which the physical representations of Riley’s idyllic childhood all come toppling down and the illusions of innocence, essentially represented by a kid-friendly elephant (with odd accoutrements from other critters), must be left behind. Too often, movies that introduce wildly fantastical parallel worlds never find time to explore them — the way Dorothy only visits one corner of Oz in the 1939 film, or how “Wreck-It Ralph” only taps into a few of its potential gaming universes.

Although this journey through the psychic and emotional underworld could have been a lot more harrowing, hellish and Bosch-like than it is, it will still probably appear perilous enough to real kids younger than Riley, who have never suffered through a crisis before. What the film charts, then, in its highly original and disarmingly physicalized way, is the competition among the oppositional aspects of human nature. For that reason, although “Inside Out” takes place almost entirely in Riley’s head, every so often, the film surfaces to check in on how she’s doing in real life, as if taking a deep breath of relatability before plunging back into her more abstract interior world, since it otherwise might been all too easy for the film to get “lost in thought.” We see Riley as an infant, at several stages in her childhood and again at 11 (Kaitlyn Dias), trying to cope with the disappointment of San Francisco, where the family’s house is a dump, new friends are hard to find and playing hockey isn’t the same as it was in Minnesota. In this respect, Joy is the protagonist and heroine, but the script doesn’t pretend that any of the other emotions couldn’t take over and lead one to the wrong destination. It’s an audacious concept, and Docter’s imagination, along with those of his numerous collaborators, is adventurous and genially daft enough to put it over.

But something’s off: Blame it on the cross-country move or the approach of puberty, but the Emotions don’t seem to work as they always have before. And there are unexpected surges of emotion in the late-going, as Riley’s equilibrium is re-established and the primacy of the parent-child bond is reaffirmed. That was weird. ‘Cause I’m not a natural alpha male leader type.” “Pete doesn’t pound the table,” Rivera said. “People crave truth and believability in this business, even when we’re making fake things. Joy — who superficially resembles Disney’s favorite fairy, Tinkerbell, minus the wings — means well, but she’s a bit of a control freak, and in trying to protect Riley’s “core memories,” she accidentally ejects herself and Sadness from Headquarters.

It’s a long way back, as the brain terrain crumbles around them, and in the interim, Riley’s mental state begins to unravel with Fear, Anger and Disgust left in control, unwisely deciding that the best idea is for Riley to run away. Pete comes to them with the ‘why’ they’re doing it.” But on “Inside Out,” the “why” didn’t come to Docter until relatively late in the production — to be precise, that day when he thought he’d be fired. In a cheeky move on the part of Bay Area-based Pixar, San Francisco is, for once, portrayed in a negative light (the family’s new home is located on a cramped, dingy downtown street).

That’s when Docter had the creative epiphany that Sadness, a character he had undervalued, was, in fact, the key to the story. “In modern day U.S., we associate sadness with negativity,” Docter said. “We try to avoid it, we even self-medicate. While Riley and her world look consistent with Pixar’s other human creations, dating all the way back to “Toy Story,” everything to do with her Emotions demanded a unique visual solution.

Docter and Del Carmen seem to have reached into Disney’s past for inspiration, seizing on the 1950s-era style seen in shorts like “Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom” (plump, bespectacled Sadness looks just like that Oscar winner’s Professor Owl host), as well as then-rival UPA’s more abstract cartoon aesthetic (Fear resembles Gerald McBoing-Boing’s dad, while a crazy shortcut to Imagination Land embraces such deconstructionism outright). In addition to linking the project to a period when advances in color film processes and stereoscopic 3D sparked wild visual experimentation in cinema, “Inside Out’s” retro look fits well with Pixar’s cutting-edge technology, blending vintage style choices with lighting and texture options previously unavailable to animators. Even something as seemingly basic as the Emotions’ skin texture — more of a pulsing mass of glowing electron-like particles, really — reflects unexpected solutions to infinite questions Docter’s gonzo idea must have raised.

I realized that Joy needed to let Sadness forward.” “We had to go to John and tell him, even though this is a big no-no, that we’re not gonna have a screening,” Docter said. “We’re gonna pitch what we’re gonna do. In other cases, it’s the streamlining of ideas that serves the material so well: from the vivid colors to the way the story always comes back to parent-child relations, playing equally well to both demographics.

That was kind of scary, I’m standing in front of you waving my arms instead of showing you all the homework with the hope that you understand why we’re doing this.” The next hurdle was screening for kids. Docter, who also has an 18-year-old son, said he let go of an early worry about children understanding the film when kids at test screenings were explaining the premise to their parents. “Kids get it quicker than adults do,” Docter said. “That’s really the first language kids learn. Smith’s Eeyore-like Sadness serves as the perfect foil to Poehler’s ebullient Joy, while Anger’s surprisingly cute appearance and diminutive stature make Black’s scenery-chewing performance that much funnier. Hader plays Fear as a nervous jitterbug, while Kaling’s disaffected Valley-girl delivery keeps Disgust (who has the least to do) feeling like an integral part of the team. To borrow a notion from Malcolm Gladwell, the pic’s “stickiness factor” is through the roof, making it one of those rare movies that transcends the medium, the way Melies visualized a moon landing or Romero invented zombies, even if relatively few go back to watch the films that spawned those ideas today.

Concepts like this come around maybe once a decade, but linger for centuries, and even if others (like early-’90s TV show “Herman’s Head”) got there first, you’ve gotta hand it to Pixar for making it endure. There’s a reason they call Pixar’s inner team the “Brain Trust”: They can be counted on not only to imagine, but to execute such original ideas as these. (Animated) A Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures release of a Disney presentation of a Pixar Animation Studios production.

Camera (color, 3D), Patrick Lin; editor, Kevin Nolting; music, Michael Giacchino; music supervisor, Tom MacDougall; production designer, Ralph Eggleston; sound designer (Dolby Atmos, Datasat), Ren Klyce; supervising sound editor, Shannon Mills; re-recording mixers, Michael Semanick, Tom Johnson; supervising technical director, Michael Fong; supervising animators, Shawn Krause, Victor Navone; character supervisor, Sajan Skaria; effects supervisor, Gary Bruins; stereoscopic supervisor, Bob Whitehill; associate producer, Mark Nielsen; casting, Kevin Reher, Natalie Lyon.

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