Mini reviews of Television seasons old and new. No fuss. No spoilers. Occasional bunnies.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Le Portrait de Petite Cossette (2004)

In many cultures there’s a belief that everything has a soul: trees, flowers, mountains, etc. It’s often referred to as animism, but that’s an umbrella term that doesn't give enough attention to the nuances of a particular society or culture. In some parts of the world, Japan for example, there’s a religious/spiritual belief held by some that even household objects can attain a soul after a set number of years. Knowing that is necessary to understanding Le Portrait de Petite Cossette.

The main protagonist is art student Eiri Kurahashi, who spends much of his time at a quiet antiques store. Eiri is enchanted by a piece of Venetian glassware that he finds there. He’s drawn to how it catches the light and the feelings it stirs when he holds it close. As he retreats further into his private world of obsession with the object the captive soul of a young girl enlists his help in a very unusual play, and the danger to his person increases.

The change that occurs in Eiri is a mix of aggressive abandonment and age-old tragedy. His tale contains within it the kind of sad beauty that sometimes accompanies rainfall. The subsequent washed-clean feeling we long for is never guaranteed; it’s as fragile as the feelings that it provides a soundtrack to.

There are a small number of other characters in Eiri's life, characterised by their relationship to the young artist, but they offer little beyond an anchoring function and a basic display of concern. It’s not a problem, because the OVA has only three episodes; had it been longer they’d have needed more depth.

The animation by Studio Daume is stunning. Colours are all-important to the beguiling mood. It uses an amber light to communicate the unspoken (amber preserves), and an even greater amount of light diffused, brought to life as it shines through painted glass. The perspectives are also unusual. The objects in the antique store see with the eyeless soul that haunts them; the view we have of the action is often theirs, existing in the same locale but distanced, not unlike Eiri’s relationship with Cossette. Subtlety is key.

It’ll be too mysterious for some folks, and that’s fine, but should appeal to the kind of viewer who doesn't require their every narrative be clearly labelled and served on a familiar plate. The story is unclear at times, but the elegance and beauty of the work will hold you until you can figure it out.

3 episodes, approx 40 mins each.

4 vanishing points out of 5