Rotterdam 2021 June Part Review: POUPELLE OF CHIMNEY TOWN
Hirota Yuusuke's debut is a lightweight on story, but a heavyweight on world and design, and beautifully animated.
Its story takes place in an isolated town-state where the sky is obscured by smoke from an abundance of mines and factories. In fact, the occupants no longer believe there IS a sky, and the few who have ever seen a star peeking through are viewed by the townsfolk as liars, rebels or dangerously mad. The young boy Lubicchi is a chimney sweep who believes his late father's stories of having seen stars in the sky, and hopes to see them himself one day. This seems to stay a dream though, until he meets Poupelle, a monstrous figure made of garbage, seemingly having come alive from nothing. Poupelle is friendly and says the stories of a sky full of stars are real. Intrigued, Lubicchi hatches a plan to travel beyond the smoke and see for himself, but Poupelle has already been targeted by the authorities as a dangerous influence. Will Lubicchi and Poupelle manage to punch a hole in the sky and prove once and for all to all people that there is a world, a universe even, outside of the smoke of Chimney Town?
As it is produced by the renowned Studio 4°C and directed by CGI-specialist Hirota Yuusuke, who was responsible for some of the amazing computer animation in films as diverse as Shin Godzilla and Yuasa Masaaki's Mind Game, it will come as no surprise that Poupelle of Chimney Town is an eye-popping visual treat. Chimney Town is a rich place of lights, colors, and misty smoke, and even the most detailed surroundings will suddenly move in three dimensions, as if the camera is attached to a drone. But take away all that flash and what remains is a small story with plenty of plot-holes, with bits and pieces taken from other films, and enough coincidences to make the threats seem less dangerous. I mean... how many mine cart chases have we seen by now? There are even (shudder) some songs worked into the narrative, so if that really isn't your thing, prepare for some squirming. A few of the script's best ideas concerning history, economics, religion, the environment and world-building are rushed through as exposition, making room for just more running and action scenes.
But that is as mean as I'm willing to be towards this film, as its characters are likeable, the artwork-style is unique and often amazing, several emotional scenes fall on the right side of sentimentality, and the end result is often a delight to watch. And good grief, this thing is polished to a sheen. Stay watching through the end credits for yet another amazing design-sequence. This was chosen as the closing film of the June theatrical leg of the International Film Festival Rotterdam, and as a crowd-pleaser to see on a BIG screen you could hardly wish for a better title.
Audiences in Rotterdam thought so too, and the film ended in the Top-10 of the festival with a very respectable awarded score of 4.2 out of 5.
Poupelle of Chimney Town is currently travelling festivals worldwide and will be shown this August at Fantasia 2021.
Poupelle of Chimney Town
- Yuusuke Hirota
- Akihiro Nishino (book)
- Akihiro Nishino (screenplay)
- Masataka Kubota
- Mana Ashida
- Shingo Fujimori
- Rina Honizumi