Maybe it's just me, but this year's "Tournee" collection of animated shorts seems to place more than the usual emphasis on the abstract and the weird.
There's nothing wrong with that, but it seems that in the past the animated shorts have been much more broadly mixed, with a better balance of shorts that are humorous, serious and difficult to fathom.
The result is that "The XXII International Tournee of Animation" may be too obtuse for some mainstream audiences.
But, as you might expect, there are always enough gems to compensate. And such is the case here.
My favorite is "Animated Self-Portraits," which offers just what the title implies a chance to finally see the many artists whose works have populated these animation anthologies over the years. What makes this piece so compelling is the distinctively stylized self-observations of the artists.
Other first-rate winners are the American short "The Arnold Waltz," about a young boy whose mind cannot stay on his schoolwork or musical practice; another American piece, the multi-media "Cat & Rat," a funny take on Tom & Jerry that ranges from simple black-and-white line drawings to colorful clay animation; "Vykrutasy," a Soviet allegory using bent wire forms; and another Soviet entry, "Cow," oil on glass done to gorgeous effect.
Bill Plympton, well known to fans of these films for his "25 Ways to Quit Smoking" and "Your Face," contributes a series of brief "Plymptoons" that play around the other cartoons, quick little bits that bring to mind Gary Larson's "Far Side" comic strip. Some of these are hysterical.
And though it certainly qualifies as one of the stranger works, the West German "Balance," which won the Oscar as best animated short, is an amusing, very satisfying work with something to say, a stop-motion piece that has four characters on a flat world that tips whenever one of them moves too far in one direction.
Some less satisfying examples are still enjoyable, such as "Juke-Bar," a funny look at cockroaches in a diner, but, at 10 minutes, a bit too long, and "A Warm Reception in L.A.," which is amusing, but too much like a music video.
My only major complaint, however, is that this collection has no computer animation.
In all "The XXII International Tournee of Animation" is another wonderful collection (with no duplications of other animation anthologies, as sometimes occurs), but those who are not real animation fans will doubtless consider some of this a bit too off the wall. Consider yourself warned.
Though unrated, it would probably receive a PG for some cartoon nudity.