An artist’s canvas is his universe. They can do whatever they like and there are no rules. What then happens if the artist decides they no longer care about what they created and leave their work to sit unfinished? This is the initial premise behind Jean-François Laguionie’s sublimely charming animation, Le Tableau. Made in sumptuously styled animation with a kaleidoscope of bright colours, this briskly-paced French production deals with themes of identity and imagination in a way that should entrance younger viewers, while also allowing adults to get enraptured in the gorgeous animation and lively action. Gorgeously animated–2D, but accentuated with CGI–Le Tableau is a gem.
When the characters of a half-completed painting begin to worry their artist will never return to finish the work, the completed “allduns” figures take over as superior figures, leaving the “halfies” (half-completed) and “sketchies” (sketch outlines) to fend for themselves. It’s the quest for knowledge by the halfies predominantly that sets forth the action of Le Tableau. Needing to know why their creator has forsaken them sees several of the painting’s figures venture out into the wilderness where they eventually exit the border of the frame and find themselves mingling with the inhabitants of the artists other paintings (including, in a neat twist, the artist himself in a self-portrait).
The way Laguionie and his co-writer Anik Leray have presented the themes of Le Tableau will probably come off as too kid-oriented for some older audiences. However, this being a kid’s movie first and foremost means a bit of leeway must be given for the broad strokes its plays, especially when it comes to the class issues of the completely painted figures. On the other hand, the second half’s “choose your own identity” narrative is a lovely bit of effective storytelling that should work for viewers of any age. A live-action coda at film’s end adds a sweet note for the younger viewers to never stop exploring, while a sequence set in Venice is particularly engrossing. No, there’s never any threat that all will be right in the world of this unfinished painting, nor are any of the more challenging notions put forth anything more than G-rated, but that’s hardly the point. What makes Le Tableau such a great film is the imagination and the visual flare that Laguionie injects into the proceedings. That younger audiences should find its message pertinent and vibrantly portrayed just enhances its power.
Le Tableau currently has no distributor