mcguire_fears.jpg mcguire_fears.jpg
Feature Film

Peur(s) du Noir & Richard McGuire

Fears of the Dark

Over the past couple years, I’ve mentioned the French animated feature Peur(s) du Noir, which is a collection of black-and-white horror tales. I finally saw the film a few weeks ago, and though I admired the effort to do something different, the overall experience was underwhelming. The themes and ideas made an attempt to be “adult,” but the quality of storytelling was lackluster and didn’t engage an adult’s mind. Part of the problem was that the filmmakers were primarily comic artists whose lack of animation training was evident, and who didn’t seem to grasp the inherent possibilities within animated filmmaking.

The notable exception was the segment directed by illustrator Richard McGuire whose piece was not only the most minimalist, but also the most intense and frightening. Graphic design historian Steven Heller recently interviewed Richard McGuire about his work on the film and it’s a good read.

There’s no word yet of a US release date for the film but here are a few related links: the official film website, a clip from McGuire’s segment, and a blog with a thoughtful review of the film by Ed Howard.

  • That clip is somethin’, huh?
    Very nice.

  • I really agree with you that Richard McGuire’s segment was by far the best (that’s, I think, why they put it in the end without interruption).

    The other thing that kept the film from becoming too exhausting for me was the way some of the shorts were fragmented. This way you could anticipate what part of which episode you would see next and didn’t have the serial experience of one short starting after another has ended which in some other shorts programs gets quite tiring.

    It’s a real pity that some of the great design and story premise was animated so inappropriately. I was amazed though that the shadows in Charles Burns’ segment looked like they were done with textures as opposed to a lot of toonshading. That gave his segment a nice touch.

  • I was really sorry I missed this in NY. As for the criticisms you make, I had a similar feeling about the Persepolis movie and Chris Ware’s recent work for This American Life: they had the feeling of being made by someone with a fully developed personal graphic sensibility who was, unfortunately, not entirely familiar with animation. Still, the work in all of them is graphically exciting and the stories being told are a little off-the-beaten-path for most animation. I hope some of these comic artists dig in their heels and stick around animation long enough to get something really exciting going. In the meantime, I’m going to eagerly await my chance to catch that movie.

  • Thanks for bringing more attention to this, Amid. Richard Mcguire is tapping into something really intriguing here. I haven’t seen the whole thing, but the interplay between black and white shapes, positive and negative space, and the intensity of the narrative is striking. Hoping to see the full film soon.

  • Chuck R.

    Excellent clip, Amid, thanks!
    I’d love to read more background info. on Richard McGuire. The Primalinea site has no bio that can see, and unfortunately the AIGA website gives a bio for Steven Heller (like we need one) and says nothing about McGuire’s background.
    At least now I know where those zippy little station-id’s for PDS kids came from.

  • He’s mainly known for his work in comics and children’s books. “What’s Wrong With this Book” is particularly fun. He was also behind an interactive site called “Willing to Try.”
    Requires Shockwave, I think.

  • Thanks for the link. Agreed that McGuire’s was by far the strongest and most fully realized piece, although I liked most of the others at least partly, which the exception of the grating Marie Caillou short.

    McGuire is a fascinating figure. His reputation as a comic artist really rests on a pretty slim body of work. He works in many different media — toys, children’s books, animation, web design, illustration, etc. — so his comics are only one aspect of his art. Other than his beautifully minimalist New Yorker covers, he’s most well known for two short comics: “Here,” which was published in Art Spiegelman’s RAW in the 80s, and “ctrl,” which was published in the Chris Ware-edited issue of McSweeney’s a few years back. Both are very unique, totally different from one another and from virtually anything else that’s ever been done in comics. “ctrl” provides some hint of the graphical style he’s been working in lately, including in this film. “Here” is his masterpiece, though, a marvel of design and formal experimentation. I have a blog post about McGuire that includes links to both the full original comic of “Here” and a film adaptation by a pair of Canadian filmmakers, which is interesting but not wholly successful. I recommend everyone should at least go read the comic, which is only 6 pages long but will make you think in entirely different ways about the formal and narrative possibilities of comics.