America’s toughest social critics aren’t some far-off foreign leaders; they’re French animators. Remember the 2009 Oscar-winning short Logorama and its merciless take on American consumerism? Now it’s Patrick Jean’s turn to needle the United States. Jean’s previous film Pixels, which reduced New York into a batch of pixels, was a big hit both online and off. It won the top prize at Annecy in 2011, and also attracted the attention of Sony Pictures and Adam Sandler who are now trying to develop it into an 8-bit Ghostbusters-style feature.
In his new short Motorville, he delivers a stinging commentary on America’s addiction to other countries’ natural resources and its effect on the rest of the world. The film was originally commissioned by the American broadcaster Showtime Channel, but after Jean submitted the film, Showtime decided not to air it. Some ideas, even animated, are too dangerous for mainstream America.
The key visual element of Motorville is using a map of a major metropolis (in this case, Los Angeles) as metaphor for the human body. Jean generated the maps using open source data from OpenStreetMap.org, which lands him firmly in the emerging New Aesthetic camp. While Motorville is hardly the first time that map data has been turned into film art, Jean’s sharp and witty handle on the concept elevates the film into a league of its own.