Monday, February 11

Prada's Trembled Blossoms fails to fully bloom

From ShowStudio comes word of "Trembled Blossoms", an animated short film for Prada. Directed by James Lima, the film depicts a "cyber woman's journey through a magical, illustrated forest", accumulating clothing from the fashion icon as she goes. And while "Blossoms" is an important shift from glossy photo spreads to moving image for fashion, what's more interesting are the cues taken from online worlds, videogames, and new media.

The film's protagonist, an androgynous avatar birthed into the world by a rose, is heavily influenced by manga and anime - featuring the long legs, large eyes, and faerie complexion favoured by Japanese artists. Beginning nude, but fully grown, the animation starts in the same way as notable online words like Second Life. The main item of clothing, a red and blue check sheath dress, isn't put on, it's transferred. Another avatar appears to bestow the clothing, virally spreading the distinctive check texture from herself to our heroine. A host of traits are picked up from online massive multiplayer environments like World of Warcraft: a pixie companion that circles the avatar, a camera that tracks movement, even glitter and glow effects that look downsampled and artificial.

Starting life as a series of stunning storyboards from James Jean, with beautiful finished watercolours from Jared Purrington, "Blossoms" mood boards are pieces of art by themselves. Elegant lines wrap around explosions of colour, pencil drawings of organic flower/high heel hybrids are delicately articulated. Unfortunately, the final work fails to keep it's cyber and organic influences in tension. Caught between pixel and paint, avatar and actor, "Blossoms" plunges into the Uncanny Valley.

Roboticist Masahiro Mori coined the term in the 70s to describe robots "with appearance and motion between a 'barely-human' and 'fully human'. We love the clumsy hulking metal of C-3PIO, but a more realistic woman cyborg with fake hair, skin and unblinking eyes repulses us. While "Blossoms" doesn't cause this degree of emotion, it fails to work because of it's straddling. Instead of an obviously artificial video-game walk cycle, or a motion captured female walk, the film uses a mediocre between - a badly animated slink that's more strange than sexy. Likewise, the avatars facial expressions are more than the real-time triggered response of a videogame, but they're also far less than human. The result is an experience that is beautiful but cold, stunning but not completely compelling.

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