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Spotlight Cinema: The Girl Without Hands

  • Madison Museum of Contemporary Art 227 State Street Madison, WI, 53703 United States (map)

While the Brothers Grimm fairytale The Girl Without Hands is the basis for this hand-drawn animated film of the same title, Sébastien Laudenbach's debut feature is more likely to be remembered for its distinctive minimalist style. Painstakingly sketched and completed solely by Laudenbach himself, this adaptation harnesses a Zen-like aesthetic somewhat reminiscent of Isao Takahata's Tale Of The Princess Kaguya (2013) with a warm, earthy palette on serene canvas-like backgrounds. Characters and objects may only be defined by a few thick, trembling watercolor strokes or pen lines on sparsely penciled terrain, but when those visuals combine with crisp sound design and a uniquely tender soundtrack of atmospheric pop by Olivier Mellano, it creates a whimsical yet wistful journey that feels so imaginatively full. As the fable goes, an impoverished miller makes a deal with the Devil (voiced by legendary French actor Philippe Laudenbach) for a chance at riches, but unknowingly sells his own young daughter (Anaïs Demoustier) in the process. While she is shielded from evil incarnate by the purity of her spirit, the Devil still malevolently manages to take her hands. Stricken with anger, the girl wanders into a forest of wonderment where she is rescued by the Goddess of Water (Elina Löwensohn, famously of Hal Hartley's films) and soon discovers a garden and castle owned by a dashing and charitable prince (Jérémie Elkaïm). In addition to the aforementioned Princess Kaguya (also distributed in the US by GKIDS), this dazzling and timeless tale of love and redemption will appeal to fans of John and Faith Hubley as well as devotees of MMoCA's annual experimental film series, Rooftop Cinema. —Grant Phipps

Earlier Event: October 24
Tera Melos, Speedy Ortiz
Later Event: October 25
Cults, Cullen Omori, Hideout