In accordance with MIFF (Melbourne International Film Festival)  and though not strictly associated with- more something of a timely selection in lieu of- MIAF (Melbourne International Animation Festival), Sunday’s special preview screening of Komaneko – The Curious Cat (2006) at ACMI (Australian Centre for the Moving Image) was a fantastic first look at an intelligent and well observed Japanese children’s film whose title character rivals Hello Kitty when it comes to cute.

Komaneko is a 60 minute stop-motion animation that consists of five short segments, each of which operates on two clear and decipherable levels; as a lesson in the virtues of patience for children and filmmakers alike.

First Step:  

Komaneko wants to make a short (self-reflexively stop-motion animation) film starring his/her (Komaneko is gender ambiguous) soft toys. Storyboarding the scene during the title sequence, Komaneko then embarks upon creating an appropriate mise-en-scene. So, “the first step” is the necessary though not entirely dynamic process of creating and staging; props, set design, lighting, wardrobe, and camera angles. The First Step is the shortest in the series, but affords its viewers with a suitable level of understanding and anticipation for the creative processes and obstacles that follow.

Hands On Camera:

As not all processes of filmmaking, or any creative project for the matter, rest solely upon the omniscient control of their directors/creators, a degree of allowance must be made for what could be called “capturing the moment” or “artistic accident” within the context of creative output. Through an amusing anecdotal sequence that sees Komaneko attempt (and fail) to capture natural occurences of beauty and excitement; from a flower blooming to a ghost ghouling the often frustrating element of artistic endeavour is exemplarily explicated.

Koma and Radi-Bo:

The third section focusses on the simultaneous and contradictory reliance upon and enablement of technology, with specific attention paid to the physical toil that is involved in successfully controlling and manipulating it to a positive end. Just like their respective parents, Komaneko and his/her friend Radi-Bo (also gender ambiguous) toil with (not against) technology for a creative outcome. From a malfunctioning disco dancing robot to a projector that’s jammed, Komaneko and Radi-Bo learn that it takes sweat and tears (quite literally) to create a successful item for artistic entertainment.

Radi-Bo’s Battle:

Section four sees Komaneko’s friend Radi-Bo battle with (an)Other – one of the most difficult battles of all, be it in filmmaking or life more generally, getting along with Others and resolving conflict with one another is no simple feat. Radi-Bo is flying a toy plane and there is a certain bird who continually sabotages his/her recreational activities. Radi-Bo learns to deal with the interference to his/her recreational/creative endeavours through an agreement to work together. Although it seems, for the inconvenience caused, it is not without something of a retainer for revenge!

Real Friends:

The final chapter in Komaneko – The Curious Cat involves the most sought after filmmaking technique, and life skill, of all: the search for the Truth. To show something true and honest is the noblest of quests for any filmmaker and certainly when considering theories of spectatorship and photography (see Roland Barthes’ Camera Lucida and Chirstian Metz’ The Imaginary Signifier: Psychoanalysis and the Cinema, to name but two of many great sources on the topic) it is indeed a significant point of contention within schools of visual/film theory and for viewers alike. Indeed the search for the truth in life more widely is too riddled with issues, but as Komaneko soon discovers, it is the search that ultimately rewards and validates its seeker. Sweet and heart-warming, an exemplary exercise in animation, Komaneko is an absolute joy to watch.

Komaneko – The Curious Cat screens exclusively at ACMI Friday July 2 – Tuesday July 6 daily at 1pm.


Here Shop and Gallery, situated on Stoke’s Croft, central Bristol, though a sizably small space, tidily houses a plethora of printed images, illustrations and photographs published in and on just about every type of trendy paraphernalia that might be saleable; zines, books, bags, toys, stickers, badges, et al. But despite the fact that everything is for sale, Here Shop and Gallery remains a space one can visit just to look at artful things – something of a rarity in these highly commoditised times. Entrance is at ground level and immediately positions the visitor well within the ‘Shop’ section of Here. Down an extraordinarily narrow staircase is a space no larger than a public toilet which then constitutes the ‘Gallery‘ section.

The gallery is a rentable space which means it costs the artists a flat fee for exhibition in addition to the commission Here Shop and Gallery take from sales of their works. Factoring in the costs to the artists, the works themselves are (for the most part) reasonably priced; items in this particular exhibition span a price range of £3 to £350.

The current exhibition, titled Land & Sky, showcases the work of illustrator Lizzy Stewart and mixed media artist Christopher Bettig. Stewart’s work consists primarily of detailed line drawings of Victorian houses alongside bears, wolves, birds, and other such woodland creatures. From humans with animals coming out of their heads to animals with houses coming out of theirs, Stewart’s designs are imaginative and charming if a little sentimental.

26. Bear. Print, £12

Certainly there is a great level of skill here and every third or fourth print offers something of a pleasurable cynicism towards contemporary human existence; one particular drawing of fine directional lines reveals a human silhouette accompanied by the words, ‘They Are on The Insides of My Eyes’.

Christopher Bettig’s works complement Stewart’s illustrations by bringing collage and mixed media, adding a third dimension to the visitor’s experience of the space. Bettig’s main works consist of latex paint, spray paint, paper, plastic and thread on paper or wood. In addition to these more traditional mounted artworks there are several printed synthetic fabrics sewn into ‘flags’ and displayed on string, much like bunting, and installed across the centre most space of the room.

Non confrontational geometric shapes, mostly circles, wheels and fans, are transposed onto squares and rectangles. Subtle rather than abrasive, the shapes in Bettig’s work are contemporary and recall modes of graphic design that are most often seen in high street fashion and Paperchase stationery (it is no coincidence that Bettig’s CV boasts designs for Urban Outfitters).

Paper, thread & spray paint on wood.

Most works to appear in the Here Shop and Gallery (past, present and future), will likely fit the adjectives aforementioned; imaginative, charming, subtle and contemporary. Here Shop and Gallery occupies a popular local niche; situated amidst the hub of all things PRSC and all things ‘community’, as it were, Here Shop and Gallery sells and exhibits the types of artworks its customer base can/do create themselves; and what better way to ensure its support and purchase than through the commoditisation of narcissism?