Neil Burns | 2008 | 79 mins | Canada
A truly bizarre animated feature from writers Daegan Fryklind + George Toles (the writer behind some of Guy Maddin's best films, from Archangel and Careful all the way to The Saddest Music in the World and Brand Upon the Brain!). I couldn't help but wonder, while I watched Edison & Leo, who the intended audience could possibly be for this dark, disturbing stop-motion animation that looks a lot more California Raisins than Tim Burton.
The answer is: who cares? Who's the audience for most of Guy Maddin's films, either? Weirdos is who, and god bless 'em for existing. Edison & Leo was amazing precisely because of the incredibly jarring and uncomfortable juxtaposition between the story and the way it is told. Watching a little clay man get decapitated, or carve a woman's lower lip right off her face is genuinely weird, but it's hard to feel as horrified by the content as you would be if it was live-action, or even if it was a "darker looking" animation style.
Set in a fantasy version of the 19th century, the story is about George T. Edison, an inventor who also happens to collect (perhaps steal) artifacts from around the world. When his wife is killed and his son (Leo) is permanently and tragically electrified in an accident of his own making, Edison sets about turning the woeful boy into his "greatest invention", attempting to improve his unfortunate life through wacky science.
When young Leo grows up and falls in love, the time comes for him to learn the disturbing truth about his mother's death, his own fate and of course, his father. Filled with more unnerving violence than your average animated feature, Edison & Leo was one of the great little surprises of TIFF this year. Good job on making me confused and upset, Neil Burns.