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The Painting: Special Edition Blu-ray + DVD Review

The Painting (2013) U.S. movie poster The Painting (Le Tableau)

US Theatrical Release: May 10, 2013 (French: November 23, 2011) / Running Time: 80 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated

Director: Jean-François Laguionie / Writers: Anik Le Ray (screenplay & dialogue), Jean-François Laguionie (dialogue), Stephanie Sheh (English adaptation)

English Voice Cast: Kamali Minter (Lola), Michael Sinterniklaas (Ramo), Eden Riegel (Claire), Marc Thompson (The Great Chandelier), Vinnie Penna (Quill), Colin DePaula (Gum), Spike Spencer (Magenta), Christopher Kromer (Mr. Graymorgan), Mary Elizabeth McGlynn (Florence), Steve Blum (Self Portrait), Colleen O'Shaughnessey (Harlequin), JB Blanc (The Painter/Venice Painter), Sam Riegel (Silhouette), David B. Mitchell (Pierrot/Grim Reaper)

French Voice Cast: Jessica Monceau (Lola), Adrien Larmande (Ramo), Thierry Jahn (Quill), Julien Bouanich (Gum), Céline Ronté (Garance), Thomas Sagols (Magenta), Magali Rosenzweig (Orange de Mars), Chloé Berthier (Claire), Jean-François Laguionie (Self Portrait/The Painter), Jacques Roehrich (The Great Chandelier), Jeremy Prevost (Mr. Gray), Michael Vigne (The Captain), Jean Barney (Venice Painter), Serge Faliu (Pierrot)

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Animation studios outside the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom have two choices: emulate the CG comedies that flourish while likely feeling like a pale imitation or opt for something more creative and less conventional.
Either way, your film is almost certain to have less global impact than even coolly-received North American cartoons. At least the unconventional approach can win you admiration and maybe even a Best Animated Feature Oscar nomination.

I expected France's The Painting (Le tableau) to snag one of those in last winter's race. After all, in its 12 years in existence, the category has shown a soft spot for recognizing imaginative, under-the-radar European imports, nominating movies like The Triplets of Belleville, The Secret of Kells, Chico & Rita, and A Cat in Paris. Though The Painting did not make the cut, with all five slots going to major productions widely released around the globe instead, it did win some critical raves at the start of its uneventful six-theater May engagement.

Bound by a cause, Lola, Quill, and Ramo make an unlikely journey together. Ramo and Claire have a Romeo and Juliet-type romance, frowned upon by both of their kind.

In a kind of variation on Toy Story, the characters of an artist's painting are alive inside the world he created. A clear hierarchy has emerged to distinguish the three different types of people. "Allduns" are the characters completely painted who rule from a castle. "Halfies" are, as you can guess, unfinished people, looked down upon by the Allduns no matter how close to color completion they are. Then there are "Sketchies", for whom the ruling class has no patience. These doodlings are chased by children and, when caught, stomped and discarded.

We meet characters from all three levels of this class system. We're introduced to the world by Lola, an easygoing girl who's a Halfie on account of one small unpainted area of her dress. Her friend and fellow Halfie Claire is engaged in a secret Romeo-and-Juliet-type romance with Ramo, an Alldun whose idealistic pleas for tolerance and equality are scoffed at by the yellow-hatted fat cat in charge.

Lola, Ramo, and Quill, a Sketchie who's just lost his best friend, wind up on a grand adventure. Their mission: to find the painter who gave them all life and get him to finish what he started so long ago. The unlikely trio enters the Forbidden Forest, but does not succumb to its feared "death flowers." Instead, Lola winds up in a war painting where she is swiftly apprehended and her explanation met with disbelief. There, one young soldier thinks her story makes sense and he helps her escape and reunite with Ramo and Quill in their missing artist's loft.

With their maker nowhere in sight, they have to settle for the advice of three other painting subjects: Florence, a friendly topless gal; Harlequin, a rhyming boy; and the artist's bitter self-portrait. They refer the wayfarers to Venice, but finding their artist in an area full of them proves to be a challenge.

Lola takes a moment to collect her thoughts after aided by this young soldier. Quill asks for the Self Portrait to restore his crushed best friend Gum.

The Painting is dripping with obvious allegory and social commentary, which distinguishes it from most mainstream animation. Its message of acceptance appears to be as high a priority as entertainment value, but it manages to do just fine on the diversion front. Its abstract character designs are a breath of fresh air in this age of homogenous, slightly cartoony CG humans.
Though bold and varied, the cast remains accessible and identifiable, important qualities that elude some of the more stylized features (e.g. Kells). The hand-drawn, computer-aided animation is somewhat simple yet beautiful, as are the painterly worlds these characters explore.

Animated movies like this which think outside the box are almost inevitably resigned to obscurity, especially without a mention on final Oscar ballots and Oscar night. They're deemed too different for kids and yet so many otherwise intelligent adults can't let go of the idea that animation is a medium for children. Thus, the films fail to develop either respect from the general public or the art house crowd. They tend to languish and remain invisible to all but animation nerds, which at least is something.

Admittedly, The Painting is not as exciting, satisfying, or rich as something like Wreck-It Ralph, the recent American 'toon it most resembles. But it's a lot more artistic and original than a mediocre movie like Escape from Planet Earth that's almost certain to meld in your mind with similarly-fashioned generic family entertainment. It must be frustrating for those who labor for years on something they believe in only to find it largely ignored by those who aren't watching movies professionally, despite glowing reviews and the occasional recommendation. While most of the US can be excused for not making some long-distance pilgrimage to see this in theaters (where it even went one day without selling a single ticket), there's no reason to continue ignoring it because the film has hit home video in a respectable Special Edition Blu-ray + DVD combo pack from niche animation purveyor GKIDS and their distribution partner Cinedigm.

Though not rated, The Painting wouldn't get any less than a PG from the MPAA, as it features mild profanity and recurring artistic toplessness.

The Painting: Special Edition Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

1.78:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (English, French)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French)
Subtitles: English
DVD Closed Captioned; French Extra Subtitled in English
Release Date: August 27, 2013
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (BD-50 & DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $34.95
Blue Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available as standalone DVD ($29.95 SRP) and on Instant Video


The Painting sports perfect picture on Blu-ray. The colorful 1.78:1 video really shines in high definition, living up to your hopes for moving art. Both the original French soundtrack and an English dub are offered in 5.1 DTS-HD master audio on Blu-ray. Whether preferred or not, the dub is the default choice and it proves to be tasteful. It's a potent uncompressed mix, making greater use of the rear channels than most movies do. English subtitles align with the dub, but presumably remain true to the original French dialogue written.

Marie Moet explains and demonstrates her work as a 3D animator in the making-of featurette. Designs for the Grim Reaper are featured in the concept art slideshow.


Identical on both discs, the extras start with GKIDS' critic-quoting English language trailer for the film (2:13), which the Blu-ray presents in full HD and 5.1 DTS-HD master audio.

A French making-of featurette titled "De la peinture au dessin anime" (32:42) gathers remarks from the key creative personnel and behind-the-scenes footage.
Unfortunately, those remarks are translated in tiny subtitles that are sometimes hard to read even with perfect vision. Still, it's a good, comprehensive look at each department's contribution to this premiere Blue Spirit Animation production.

A slideshow (9:46, HD) displays nearly 200 pieces of concept art and model sheets to suitable score.

"More Animation from GKIDS", an advertising section done right, supplies pertinent other full US trailers (HD in Blu-ray) for The Secret of Kells, Chico & Rita, A Cat in Paris, Tales of the Night, The Rabbi's Cat, and From Up on Poppy Hill.

The main menus briefly play clips over the expansion of the poster/cover imagery they then silently settle on. The Blu-ray doesn't support bookmarks, but it resumes unfinished playback.

Holding the two distinct, fully-colored discs, the standard Blu-ray keepcase adds an insert advertising other GKIDS animation, and is topped by a cardboard slipcover reproducing the same artwork.

Lola watches as Ramo makes the journey onto the paintbrush held by a self-portrait in the animated French film "The Painting."


The Painting offers a picturesque and creative alternative to American animation. Though a little slight and standard narratively, this film's ideas and visuals help make up the difference, amounting to an enjoyable time. With a stunning feature presentation and a decent collection of extras, GKIDS' combo pack leaves little to be desired.

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Reviewed September 20, 2013.

Text copyright 2013 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2011 Blue Spirit Animation, Be Films, France 3 Cinema, and 2013 GKIDS, Cinedigm.
Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.