The Awakening Of The Insects


Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

The Awakening Of The Insects
"The art itself just on the edge of real, the spectre of the special economic region, the consequences of colony." | Photo: UniFrance

"Your wooden dumplings are a bit lost" and they may not be the only ones. The title takes its name from the period between winter and spring, part of the Chinese solar calendar. Jingzhe is a time of change, and there is much of it here.

Writing/directing duo Stéphanie Lansaque and François Leroy have now made six films together, have a handful of other animation department credits. The film shows a mixture of styles, from overprinted verisimilitude to a somewhat abstracted CCTV-eye that recalls nought so much as original PlayStation survival horror games, fixed camera, isometric perspective, creeping dread.

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There are uneasy geographies other than the political. A swarm of paper tigers across the shop floor, a medicine cabinet whose geometries draw drawers across walls and ceilings, wood and brass and paper-labelled with roots and routes of Escher unsure. In other places the differently real, hexagonal lens flare making promises about optics that specific quantities of ground glass can slow.

What might be photographs, perhaps mapped to three-dimensional models. Disquiet abounds. Kowloon Bay under cowl of night, a level of detail that captures clashes of modernity. The tram has graffiti about democracy upon it but there is an even older struggle. Mr Lam is visited in his pawn shop, but he may be playing host already. The exorcist Mrs Meng is struggling not only with his memories but his memory, an album with the photographs scratched out, a space where the widower cannot see himself.

Otherwise faceted, the cave of treasures, a box of rings, the eyes of the oncoming swarm. There is opportunity to reflect, to picture the cause of these consequences. That is supported in tone and style. The soundtrack contributing the the deep timelessness of the landscape of Hong Kong, The Temple Of The Precious Lotus In Flood (1925) and Naughty Hula Eyes (1923) joining regular collaborator Denis Vautrin's score.

That unmooring from chronology through song and score made more (or worse?) by Mr Lam's own unease. He orders a meal he has already eaten. He eats a meal he has already ordered. The sirens sail by but he has already heard another call. He travelled the world, he knows the difference between a live tiger and another, but did he? Does he? Do we?

Fortune and fate sit uneasily, agitated in potentia like those wooden dumplings. The art itself just on the edge of real, the spectre of the special economic region, the consequences of colony. The figures in geographic complexity too, an uncanny valley of old faces and older newer geometries, consoled by the familiar and agitated by a lack of control.

Screened as part of 2023's Manipulate Festival, The Awakening Of Insects explores uncomfortable territory. The notion of a festival that features puppetry and animation with an animation that suggests strings of self cut by senility, of self-possession replaced by possession, is uneasily recursive. Rooting itself in the ritual and mythology of Southeastern China, the film uses its particular animation style to further disorient, and create something compelling.

Reviewed on: 09 Feb 2023
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When an elderly Hong Kong gentleman loses his memory, he receives an unexpected visit from a Taoist exorcist who is determined to chase out the demons lodging in his head.

Director: Stéphanie Lansaque, François Leroy

Writer: Stéphanie Lansaque, François Leroy

Starring: Jackie Chan, Wong Yuet Yin Eva, Lam Yiu Fai, Kate Leung

Year: 2021

Runtime: 15 minutes

Country: France


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