Mascarpone is used with permission from Jonas Riemer. Learn more at omele.to/2OZyhm6.
Francis is a sensitive, dreamy young man working as a film projectionist in a theater. He loves his dog Frafalle, has a crush on a femme fatale and finds himself often in reverie, aided by the silver screen fantasies he gets to watch as part of his work.
But one day he accidentally hits the car of a local gangster named Mascarpone. (The name rhymes with Al Capone, and he’s just as menacing.) In retaliation, the mobsters kidnap Francis’s dog, propelling the young man into a dangerous world of crime and intrigue.
Inventive, playful and always surprising, this crime caper — directed by Jonas Riemer from a script written by Katharina Russ and Johannes Rothe — combines animation, visual effects and live-action in an entertaining yarn, which zigzags through a homage to old-school gangster films and the golden age of Hollywood.
The storytelling possesses the rhythm of joyful anarchy, stuffing plot twists and turns at every chance. The story careens from one development to another at a pace as breakneck as the car chases in the film, as Francis tries to extricate himself and his dog from the orbit of the ingeniously named Mascarpone. Narrative cohesion and intimately emotional immersion aren’t the point here; instead, the experience is pure careening, exhilarating fun.
The narrative is really just an excuse to string together a series of stunning set pieces and action sequences that dazzle with immense visual bravura, starting with a distinctive set design, nostalgic costumes and sleekly stylish cinematography. There are shades of Art Deco in the lines and decor, lending the film some glamour of a bygone era. But the intricate production design, using cardboard buildings and charmingly hand-crafted props, frames these touches with an almost innocent charm.
The combination of different techniques allows the film to create an immersive quirky, whimsical world, and the visuals have both a homemade, scrappy charm. The performances, too, are just as stylized as the rest of the film, and add to the delight of the short. It’s often simply a treat to watch, and fun to watch the action unravel, especially as Francis barrels forward to a pile-up of a conclusion — and swerves back to offer an amusing reinterpretation of its main events.
“Mascarpone” ends up being a playground of a story, with a sense of cleverness and joy for the very magic of movies. It takes from film noir, gangster films and other escapist story traditions, and is full of references to earlier eras of film history. But in many ways, it best captures the wonder and playfulness of early silent films, which had a vaudevillian sense of rhythm and razzle-dazzle showmanship that many contemporary films just don’t possess anymore. As a result, the film is sheer fun and supremely entertaining, and while viewers may have to keep on their toes with the film’s hustle and bustle, they’re guaranteed no less than a cinematic joy ride.
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A man who works in a movie theater is thrust into a world of ruthless mobsters. | Mascarpone
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