KIRIKOU AND THE SORCERESS
(Kirikou et la Sorcerie)
There is an astonishing simplicity to Michel Ocelots animation. The characters are all two-dimensional figures drawn in incredibly plain lines and are only ever seen from the side as they move along a two-dimensional horizontal plane. The backgrounds and buildings have a similar bare minimalism, yet also amazingly vibrant colour. Despite stripping the animation away to next-to-nothing, Kirikou and the Sorceress comes with an enormous strength of story, not to mention a considerable sense of humour. Ocelot is not interested in the cutsie cues of Disney and other childrens animators there is no touchy-feely sentimentalism, no cute animal sidekicks. This is animation for adults the story is pitched at a considerable level of maturity (and all in the guise of a childrens film).
The film delights from the very first scene where the young hero calls out from inside his mothers womb demanding: Mother, bring me into this world, only to be told: A child who can speak from the inside of his mother can bring himself into the world, whereupon he does. The scenes a few minutes later with Kirikou going to visit the sorceress are hysterical, especially in the images that Ocelot creates of a hat with a pair of feet running away and the wonderfully nonsensical images of the sorceresss wooden fetishes pursuing (the fetishes prove to be the scene stealers of the show). The character of Kirikou has a wonderful precociousness he is really a trickster figure from myth, someone who wins out through a combination of brash curiosity and earnest innocence. There is a lovely scene where Kirikou is drowned after puncturing the water-drinking creature and the whole village comes and starts singing as his mother holds him to her breast and brings him back to life. Most of the film consists of a series of self-contained stories, although the latter half is taken up by the longer episode of Kirikous journey under the mountain to meet his grandfather. This is a charming sequence filled with Kirikous encounters with skunks and squirrels, with the squirrels adopting him as their saviour and bringing him gifts, and then helping him avoid the fetishes by disguising him as a bird, only for a cockatoo to take a dislike to him. Ocelot winds the show up with an appealingly left field romantic ending.
There is the feeling throughout that Ocelot is telling a cultural folk myth. The story could be an African folk legend, and many have assumed it was even though the story is one that Ocelot has entirely made up himself. (Ocelot grew up in the former French colony of Guinea in West Africa and almost certainly assimilated much of Kirkou out of native tales and cultural detail).
Kirkou and the Sorceress enjoyed enormous international popularity. Michel Ocelot followed it up with two sequels Kirkou and the Wild Beasts (2005) and Kirikou and the Men and Women (2012), which tells a handful of other tales and allow Ocelot to expand his artwork on a much more expansive canvas. The Kirikou story was later expanded into a stage musical, Kirikou and Karaba (2007), although this has so far not played outside of France.
(Winner in this sites Top 10 Films of 1998 list).
Film online in several parts beginning here:-