GKIDS has announced New York and Los Angeles release dates for Sébastien Laudenbach’s sensitive and sublime The Girl Without Hands. The film is due to open July 21 in New York City and August 4 in Los Angeles.

The film is difficult to describe – it’s based on a Brothers Grimm fairy tale, and though it’s perfectly acceptable for children, it’s about the furthest thing from a children’s film. Here’s what it is though: an uncompromised vision by one person who tells a story with absolute mastery of draftsmanship and command of the animation art form. I’ve tried writing about it before as have others, but words are a poor substitute for the hypnotic sway of Laudenbach’s fragmentary drawings in motion.

From the GKIDS description:

In hard times, a miller sells his daughter to the Devil. Protected by her purity, she escapes from the Devil who, in revenge, deprives her of her hands. So begins her long journey towards the light… but in spite of her resilience and the new protection of a handsome prince’s estate, the Devil devises a plan of his own. This beautiful and dreamlike take on the Brothers Grimm story has created an adult fairytale destined to become a classic. Hand-painted with lush, evocative details and featuring the voices of Anaïs Demoustier (The New Girlfriend) and Jérémie Elkaïm (Declaration of War).

The film’s graphic style could prove challenging to viewers who are accustomed to conventional animation characters that depict every eyelash and skin pore, but as Laudenbach explains in the film notes, the essence of the film can be discovered inbetween the details of his drawings. The film, he said, “gives great importance to drawing, drawing that is light and scattered with holes, which very often finds its consistency only when it is put into movement, which is the essence of animation.”

Adds Laudenbach: “Contrary to the large majority of feature-length animated films, The Girl Without Hands offers an image that is not finite. Or, to put it another way, that is in-finite. I like to think that this infinity opens up the imagination of the viewer, whose brain, in withdrawal, must work to fill in the gaps.”

Laudenbach’s film, which carries a strong feminist message, enjoyed a healthy reception in France last year, where it premiered in the ACID program at Cannes, was nominated for best animated feature at the César Awards, and won both the jury prize and the award for best French film at the Annecy Animation Festival.

The Girl Without Hands will open in New York on July 21 at the IFC Center (323 6th Ave in Manhattan) and in Los Angeles on August 4 at the Laemmle Music Hall (9036 Wilshire Blvd. in Beverly Hills). Additional cities will be announced on the film’s official website.

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