Cannes 2011 Review: Tatsumi

Cult manga author Yoshihiro Tatsumi gets the biopic treatment in this ode to his work produced by Singaporean director Eric Khoo.

rating: 4

Cult manga author Yoshihiro Tatsumi gets the biopic treatment in this ode to his work produced by Singaporean director Eric Khoo. But it's no ordinary biopic - and we don't mean because his work is ignored in favour of a rubbish dementia plot. Combining Tatsumi's life, as described in his own autobiographical manga, and several of the short stories written during his prolific career so far, 'Tatsumi' is a stunning animation which captures the flavour of the great creator on so many levels. The animation style absorbs and expounds the raw, sometimes simplistic style of its subject, throwing us viscerally into the worlds he created for himself. It's clear that Khoo has spent much time in them himself, because they draw you in with minimal effort and maximum effect. Surprisingly, this is enhanced by the brief sorties into the fictional short stories Tatsumi created. Far from breaking the narrative of his life, they supplement them, adding to an otherwise slightly superficial narrative with the kind of metaphors and obsessions which Tatsumi himself was exploring in the stories. Their melancholy, and often shocking, content adds another level to the sometimes surprisingly ordinary events of Tatsumi's own life. And so rather than adding a false note of melodrama to capture the sense of the subject, Khoo deploys carefully chosen stories to at once illustrate the wonders of his work and convey the deepers meaning they represent in his own life. Those of you who are familiar with Tatsumi's work will find this a fitting tribute. Though it might not be packed with the kind of trivia true fans will be keen to absorb from the experts who choose to study his worlds, it is nonetheless a passionate and fitting exploration of them from the inside. A worthy interweaving of the facts and fictions that make the man. For those who have not encountered him, it's a fantastic introduction. From outlining the social and personal issues that spurred his creativity, to briefly examining the literary landscape that caused him to create the 'gekiga' adult manga movement, 'Tatsumi' gives an overview that is accessible and engaging without being too shallow. The inclusion of animated incarnations of his short stories also give a fantastic sampling of work, and, if you're anything like me, you'll want to go out and get hold of more of it as soon as you can. Bring the festival experience home this year on Blu-ray Disc €“ keep up to date with all the latest Blu-ray news at the Blu-ray Disc Reporter.
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Matt Holmes is the co-founder of What Culture, formerly known as Obsessed With Film. He has been blogging about pop culture and entertainment since 2006 and has written over 10,000 articles.