ROUND DA WAY: FRENCH HIP HOP ANIMATED FILM LASCARS MAKES ITS INTERNATIONAL DEBUT

July 16th, 2009 13:26:00

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LASCARS (Round Da Way) makes its big screen debut at Fantasia, after a buzzing premiere at Cannes earlier this year. Adapted from a long-running series of mini TV episodes that aired on Canal Plus, LASCARS takes the urban aesthetic of Hungarian animated film THE DISTRICT! - complete with a pounding hip hop soundtrack by De La Soul, House of Pain, IZM, Oxmo Puccino among others, and spray paint-inspired animation effects - and mixes it with characters that recall the original FAT ALBERT AND THE JUNKYARD GANG cartoons and early Nelvana (ROCK AND RULE), and the raunchy sensibility of Ralph Bakshi to create a colourful snapshot of life in the Parisian hood.

Tony Pepperoni (voiced by Vincent Cassel) and his homeboy Joe (voiced by French hip hop artist and co-writer IZM) are two ghetto boys who find themselves stuck getting summer jobs when their vacation plans are thwarted by a shady travel agent. Joe gets a job housesitting and building a sauna in the basement of a wealthy curmudgeon's ancestral home, driven by his hope of getting in with the man's curvy young niece. It's a world far removed from the steps in the hood, where he and his friends usually sit around and brag/exaggerate about their fictional escapades. Tony opts to stay in the hood, planning to get fronted a giant stash of weed from scar-faced neighbourhood psycho Zoran (looking uncannily like one of John Kricfalusi's Kirk Douglas-inspired square-jawed characters) and selling it at a profit. Of course, things don't go as planned; Tony soon ends up in deep water as circumstance finds him with neither the weed nor the cash, and every subsequent get -rich-quick scheme he envisions to alleviate the situation leaves him further in debt. This doesn't bode well for Tony, considering that Zoran has a short fuse and an arsenal of weaponry he's not afraid to use.

Tony's aspirations are limited, he can't see beyond the neighbourhood steps; he has no group with which to identify other than his fellow hustlers, all of their tomorrows composed of the same quicksand as their present. But LASCARS doesn't focus on its characters' folly, or ruminate on what might become of characters like Tony in real life - instead, it's a lighthearted comedy that humanizes its characters, as obnoxious and boastful as they may be; because really, bullshitting is a hobby characteristic of many kids who can't see the means to escape from the cycles inherent in low-income neighbourhoods. But through their stories, their competitiveness, their determination to be more than they are, the audience passes through a mirror into a world where our customary sense of the social landscape is turned inside out and backward. For as much as their stories superficially repudiate authority and bourgeois values, no one champions those same values as much as the kids daydreaming on the neighbourhood stoop - they all want to be in charge, be rich, have nice clothes, a fancy car, a big house. Still, LASCARS is a highly kinetic film meant to inspire rumpshaking more than soul-searching; it softens its social context with characters that remain endearing regardless of their bad decisions and ostentatious behaviour, and its distinctive animation style is pure eye-candy.

LASCARS was a late addition to the Fantasia calendar, which is why you won't have seen it in the collectible program guide - but when films get added after the zero hour, it's because they're truly exceptional, so don't miss your opportunity to see this one-time-only screening with director Emmanuel Klotz and voice actor/co-screenwriter IZM in person for a Q+A with the audience.

- Kier-La Janisse

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LASCARS screens Friday July 17th at 7:00pm in the Hall Theatre.

Full details, decription, trailer and more on the LASCARS film page HERE.

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