In a year full of remarkable animated features, one of the most sublime and original ones is yet to come: Sébastien Laudenbach’s La Jeune fille sans mains (The Girl Without Hands) will arrive in theaters in France next Wednesday, December 14, from distributor Shellac.

The film is headed to the United States in 2017 thanks to GKIDS, but until we get their English-language trailer, here’s the French version:

Laudenbach adapted the plot from a Brothers Grimm fairytale:

In hard times, a miller sells his daughter to the devil. Protected by her purity, she escapes but is deprived of her hands. Walking away from her family, she encounters the goddess of water, a gentle gardener, and a prince in his castle. A long jourey towards the light…

The Girl Without Hands is largely a one-man production, written, directed, and animated by Laudenbach himself. But unlike some one-person animated features that lose steam midway, Laudenbach keeps the viewer engaged throughout, constantly surprising with his virtuosic draftsmanship and rich color palettes. A lean running time of 76 minutes keeps the story sharply focused and free of unnecessary side plots or characters.

While the characters in the film are simply designed, Laudenbach’s drawing is anything but simplistic. His ethereal line flickers on and off, engaging the viewer’s mind to fill in the gaps. It’s a sensual aesthetic choice that works perfectly, but could also turn off a general public who is used to hyper-detailed cg characters that display every pore, freckle, and bit of stubble on a character’s face.

The Girl Without Hands premiered earlier this year as part of the ACID program in Cannes, a parallel selection of films that runs independent of the Cannes Film Festival, and has since been on the festival circuit, including Annecy.

Films like this don’t come along often in animation, and they deserve all the attention they can get.

La Jeune Fille Sans Mains

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