With a name like Tutli-Putli, one can expect many things. But one will not expect the marvelous short film Lavis and Szczerbowski will present you. Though the name sounds kinda ridiculous (and is reminiscent of oddly creepy characters from children's tales), it's actually a Hindu word referencing "puppet" and "delicate women". Bet you didn't expect that.
Madame Tutli-Putli is a 17-minute, stop-motion animation short. Now, I'm a big fan of stop-motion already, but the work of both directors takes this particular field in cinema way beyond.
Looking at the credits, you'll see that both directors did a lot of the work themselves. From script to art direction to animation to sculpting, it's all very much their own blood, sweat and tears. Typical for such films (where directors are playing a key role in most aspects of the production), Madame Tutli-Putli has a very characteristic and detailed feel to it.
The most striking element of the film are the visuals, which are beyond impressive. The combination of agile camera work with the animation of the puppets is simply nutters. A lot of effort was spent on getting the lighting just right, the puppets look gorgeous and the setting just oozes detail. The visual impression reminded me of the work of Pitoff and Caro, set in a universe that could've easily been that of Les Triplettes de Belleville.
The animation itself is quite slick and solid, without losing the stop-motion feel. Another eerie detail are the eyes of the puppets, which were filmed in real life, then superposed on the puppets. They've tried a similar technique with mouths before, but never to good effect. With the eyes it works miraculously, giving the puppets that little extra bit of humanity.
Apart from the stunning visuals, the film boasts a marvelous score, starting off rather jazzy and ending in more ethereal sounds as the film progresses. It's nice to see that the same level of detail went into creating and timing the soundtrack, something which is often overlooked.
The film is short, making the story rather confusing the first time around. There is no dialog and little time to grasp the realm of Madame Tutli-Putli. The whole story develops inside the train and transcends normal storytelling by the end of the film. Personally, I liked the feel of the ending, although I haven't been able to make much sense of it so far.
If I had to name one downside, it would be the length of the film. I realize the amount of work that goes into creating a short like this is tremendous, but in the end it does feel rather short and I wouldn't have minded to sit through another solid 40 minutes of Madame Tutli-Putli.
This short is a marvel in the realm of stop-motion film. A true milestone project that will hopefully keep the genre alive. Sadly, it's another short film and no full length feature, but hopefully this film might give Lavis and Szczerbowski the funding to create a feature film in the near future. Definitely recommended.