Thursday, October 08, 2009

Ratatouille's sense of taste, of place

by Ryland Walker Knight

—It starts with a book.

I put together a little image-essay for Todd's Pixar Week over at The House on Brad Bird's Ratatouille as it's easily my favorite Pixar film. Click here to see-drink-eat it. (If that takes some time to load, click here for VINYL IS IMAGES.) Every viewing gives me good things, and its pathos really hits hard what with its ideas about creativity and finding a place in the world for that passion. It's no secret that writing is a dying profession—hell, a dying skill set—let alone art form. But I keep at it, and I take pride in my miniscule accomplishments. I'm having fun with this stuff, with things like this work. Besides, these image-essays are something different, I hope, than your usual film blogging. At any rate, another thing I was thinking about rewatching this great little film is the different in choreography between something like this and something like, say, Playtime (or Tati in general), though there's definitely some overlap/inspiration at play. The most obvious is that Tati is a scientist, kinda, while Bird runs in trenches. Tati refuses identification and, as with most "kids movies," you can't help but find yourself in Remy's paws, scuttling here and there avoiding ovens and broken bottles. This gets at Bird's fluid camera perspective: the image shrinks and expands in fun ways. And—I still don't know, exactly, outside a stab at the idea of focus-blur—you really get the sense of a camera's presence in this film. (I find this true of The Incredibles as well.) Definitely something to think about more here, because it's subtle, unlike with the ostentatious zooms and lens flares of everybody-but-me's favorite, Wall-E. (Oh, right, Coffeen wasn't a fan either.) Gotta be more to say about plasticity inside these Bird Pixar films. The image, here, is itself an aperture—but it's been explicitly made, or built, so what, then, are we seeing but pure expression?

—Let it fill you! Use every sense, use every-thing you've got.


  1. Not everyone is a Wall-E nut. (I liked it a lot, but...) My current ranking, pending revisitation of the Toy Story films at the Castro this week, if I can squeeze them in:

    1. Up
    2. Toy Story
    3. Ratatouille
    4. Monsters, Inc.
    5. Toy Story 2
    6. the Incredibles
    7. Wall-E
    8. Finding Nemo
    9. a Bug's Life

  2. Glad to see you really dig _Up_. I only saw it once, but, I really enjoyed it. I don't think it can top _Ratatouille_, but I truly appreciate how cartoony it is (in ways that none of the others are) what with its highly fantastical sense of gravity. Also, a beautiful final shot. I wish the 3D had been a slightly bigger part of the design, kinda, with all the hubbub, but I liked how seamless and simple it worked, too.

    I also think the second _Toy Story_ is pretty great; way better than _Summer Hours_, as Sicinski argued from TIFF a year ago.

  3. a long, low hum. appreciative, of course.