Winner of an ‘Audience Award’ at the 2017 Annecy Film Festival and a César award for ‘Best Animated Short Film’ in 2018, Pépé Le Morse arrives online with a surge of acclaim behind it, meaning it should be one of the biggest animations we welcome on to our site in 2018. A touching tale of a grieving family, this 15-minute film from GOBELINS, l’école de l’image graduate Lucrèce Andreae takes a relatable, genuine narrative and seasons it with dashes of fantasy to make for an emotive, unforgettable watch.
The story of a family begrudgingly embarking on a trip to the grey and windy seaside to support Grandma as she mourns the loss of her chain-smoking, beach-loving husband, Pépé Le Morse was originally inspired by a trip the director took around St. Petersburg. Fascinated by the men (known as ‘Walruses’) who lined the banks of the Neva river, soaking up every last ray of sunshine in only their underpants, the image of these well-weathered men proved a great starting point for a story about an enigmatic grandpa. “For me it was a chance to explore the disturbed imagination of a child who doesn’t quite understand everything that’s going on with adults”, Andreae reveals in this interview with Abla MyDylarama.
Whilst Pépé Le Morse did evoke my own memories of when my grandfather died, and my struggles to process my emotions in the aftermath, the main thing I love about this short is how perfectly it captures the family dynamic. The oblivious toddler, the phone-obsessed daughters, the mischievous son, the frustrated mother, the characters of Andreae’s short could have easily been one-dimensional stereotypes, but she adds just the right amount of complexity to make them layered and loveable. As each one experiences their own personal epiphanies throughout the film, we as viewers get to witness them grow and transform and it’s difficult not to feel a level of genuine affection towards them at the touching conclusion of Pépé Le Morse.
Inspired by the photography of Shoji Ueda and the work of Japanese animators Miyazaki, Takahata and Satoshi Kon, Pépé Le Morse’s surprising narrative is supported by an assured aesthetic that perfectly compliments the mood of the film. Featuring an almost subdued colour palette, the film truly comes to life when delving into its many flights of fancy. From the scene where the daughter is buried in the sand, to the one where the son thinks he sees his now deceased grandfather, it’s rare a film about grief handles its narrative with such imagination and confidence and it sure makes for a refreshing change.
Andreae graduated from GOBELINS back in 2010 (you can watch her grad film Trois Petite Points here), before going onto study at La Poudrière, where she created her Staff picked short Le Mots de la Carp. She is now currently working on developing an animated feature film.HT to Benoit Berthe Siward for bringing this to our attention and to Abla MyDylarama for her interview, which provided us with most of the background info for this post.