Friday, 15 January 2010

La Joie de Vivre (1934), Hector Hoppin and Anthony Gross

(Part of Animation Month)

They, every inch the good time gals, bounce and sway with fresh white smiles. He, top to toe the dapper chap, pursues them. Oh no, it's not like that at all. He just wants to give them back one of their shoes. La Joie de Vivre is a frolic, a race to the next adventure, a bike chase, a chaste romancing of life itself.

Over these nine minutes (that seem to take up the space of only a couple) you get the impression that the girls don't want to be caught if only because that would mean the end of the fun. When he does catch up with them it is on
their terms. Eventually they just flow and fall into each other's company.

Until then, they hide behind bushes, in bushes or become bushes, their skirts morphing into voluminous voluptuous petals. It is as if the girls are at one with the world. They are able to manipulate it at will and Hoppin and Gross more than once have them play with the illusion of 3D in 2D space. They even float about a power station, zapped by lightning and captured in a flash.

La Joie de Vivre has an alluring Deco style with crisp and smart blacks, greys and whites. Despite the flamboyant imagination of this marvellous short film it is never too much. That is to say, it's controlled. Too much animation (hand-drawn shorts especially) is drunk on the possibilities of this malleable form, and indulges in the empty transformation of colours and shapes*. These can be incontinent show-reels of uninhibited experimentation. They abuse the medium because they have nothing to say, only to show - show what can be done.

La Joie de Vivre is a flight of fancy and a well-dressed confection but it also makes us feel it and perhaps makes us want to dance, like them, for joy.

*Exceptions include the transformation of a city by sunrise in pinscreen animation Le Nez by Alexander Alexeieff and Claire Parker or the story of evolution in A Short History by Ion Popescu-Gopo.


  1. Another one added to the watch list. I completely agree with the caveats of traditional animation. If not used meaningfully, it moves from the childlike to the childish. Cohl's The Hasher's Delirium is one short, which comes to mind as of now, that uses this purposefully.

    Thanks for the post!

  2. Again, it's my pleasure JAFB and thanks for the comments.

    I just saw "The Hasher's Delirium" and, yes, it is a good example of how to work with what's at your disposal to transcend what's simply on the page.