—It starts with a book.
A couple years ago I wrote a comparison review pitching Satoshi Kon’s Paprika as, if not an answer to, then a conversant partner with Brad Bird’s Ratatouille. You can click right here and read it. Watching the film again while preparing the image-essay to follow, I was struck by a few things in my new, two-years-later (more conceptually refined?) toolkit: (1) this isn’t simply a movie about animation and imagination (though those are big), at bottom it’s a movie about taste; and (2) that investigating taste, say evaluation, is a project of intentionality—seeing how the mind is directed at objects, and how those tastes were formed. That is, it’s about the delight, and the impact, of memory—as a weight, in the body, in the present. Then, what’s really cool is that Bird animates those thought processes in thrilling ways: Remy’s dreams of flavor, Ego’s taste bud time-travel home, Linguini’s training. And it’s all given proper scale and space. Bird’s sense of the image, and of mise-en-scene is another element that separates him from the other house (so-called) “stylists” that direct these pictures. You get a real sense of choreography, and weight, in a Bird film. (This makes the still image a reduction, unfortunately, of the film’s fluidity, but every composition—as you’ll see below—crackles.) Bird designs worlds with wit, and renders them willfully cartoony—he favors plastic—but every edit counts towards characterization, towards building a feeling. And he can’t quit his egalitarian stance, which I love. His movies, though focused on “the exceptional,” argue for everybody’s worth. Everybody has a place, a role, a value. The trick—with people, with food, with films, with life—is selection; that is, to have good taste.
—Don’t hurt yourself.
—Brains, or, shrouded celerity
—See with your tongue with your eyes closed, let it detonate
—We make our friends
—The price of a pellicle, of fur and of fame
—He’s a tool
—We make a talisman
—Tiny towering though localized
—Find it: go back, come back, taste everything here
—Let go, let it fill you
—Not a madeleine
Pixar Week will run October 4—10 at the House. For more information on the event, please see here.