By Don Simpson | January 30, 2013
Director: Michel Ocelot
Writer: Michel Ocelot
Starring: Julien Béramis (voice), Marine Griset (voice), Yves Barsacq (voice)
Utilizing one-dimensional puppets, light sources and a screen, shadow plays created a very similar effect to what we experience in modern day cinema. There is a very long history of shadow puppetry in Indonesia, China, India, Greece, Nepal, and Turkey, but some attribute the spread of this rich theatrical tradition to Europe in the mid-18th century as the seedling for cinema. French missionaries in China brought back the art of shadow puppetry to France and that quickly evolved into Ombres françaises.
French animation writer-director Michel Ocelot has made a career of using shadow plays as the basis for his productions, but in the case of Tales of the Night he truly outdoes himself with the magnificent visual elements of this film. Ocelot places the film’s three protagonists (voiced by Julien Béramis, Marine Griset and Yves Barsacq) in a dilapidated cinema in Paris; together they brainstorm on a variety of narrative pitches that blend historical tales and traditions from around the world with novel fictional elements in order to develop a series of six short narratives.
The resulting productions place the blackened shadows of its characters in front of bright, colorful backdrops. The intricate artistry and creativity that goes into each of these short films is nothing short of amazing. Exotic international settings bedazzle the film with an escapist and fantastic air; and the unwavering moral lessons — which are often re-imagined via a modern, socially-acceptable filter — are made palatable by the sheer wonderment of these fully immersive worlds.
Its very exciting for me to see an animated film that does not over-stimulate children with snarky dialogue, toilet humor and violence; instead, Tales of the Night is filled with thoughtful and intelligent stories that hearken back to the glory days of bedtime stories for children. I don’t necessarily condone giving children access to television and films right before bedtime, but Tales of the Night might just be one of the few exceptions to that rule.