KIRIKOU AND THE MEN AND WOMEN
(Kirikou et les Hommes et les Femmes)
The Kirikou films are utterly charming tales of plain child-like wisdom and ingenuity winning out over adult pomposity. Michel Ocelot has a love of West African culture and it shows in the animation that is extraordinary simple nevertheless imbues the characters with an amazing amount of detail and cultural verisimilitude. The two sequels have improved over that by adding much more depth and especially colour as Ocelots budgets grew, while Kirikou and the Men and Women also gets the 3D treatment. As in the two preceding works, the film has no particular structure is just a series of loose tales.
The first story The Roof of the Strong Woman is probably the weakest of the quintet. This centres around a high-demand woman coming to live with Kirikou and his mother and turning their household upside down, even driving them out, with her demands and criticisms. The episode lacks Kirikous usual pieces of ingenuity and arrives at a weak payoff. There is however at least one magical scene that of Kirikou dancing in a rain shower.
The second story The Grumpy Old (where the French word vieux, which translates as old, appears to be used as a colloquial term for senior) plays into the Kirikou ingenuity with some appealing scenes where Kirikou tricks one of Karabas fetishes into searching for the cantankerous old, ingeniously finds a way to get him out of the tree and then even more ingeniously outwits the fetishes after they are sent to apprehend the old for insulting Karaba.
The Blue Monster is a perhaps over-obvious parable of culture shock and plea for tolerance as the villagers react to the intrusion of someone different. (This is an episode that seems even more apt watching it four years later as anti-refugee Islamophobia runs rampant across Europe). It works well, ending in the delightful moment where the Tuareg boy tears off a strip of cloth and makes a miniature burnoose for Kirikou.
The Griotte comes together with a very nice ending about the nature of storytelling. Incidentally, this with its reference to the legend of Sundiata Keita, the 13th Century founder/ruler of the Mali Empire, as well as the subsequent episode and its mention of the Harmattan Wind, firmly locates the Kirikou films as being set in West Africa. (Michel Ocelot spent much of his childhood in the West African republic of Guinea).
The final story The Flute works very nicely as we get to see more glimpses of Kirikous mothers background. The orchestra of onomatopoeia comes together rather charmingly at the end and there is an even more appealing finale when Karaba sends her fetishes back to ask them to keep playing.