Review: A visually dazzling ‘Tales of the Night’

“Tales of the Night,” the latest film from veteran French animator Michel Ocelot, working here in 3-D, plays as an omnibus of shorts — as its framing structure, an older man sits in a theater with two young children, the trio inventing six stories.

The stories are fairly straightforward — two sisters love the same man, a boy’s drumming transfixes his tribe, a girl escapes a monster, another boy explores a cave, yet another is challenged not to lie, a young couple struggles to come together.

Each tale has its own specific contours, though all are in the realm of historical fantasy, with kaleidoscopic background effects as the main visual guide from story to story.

Ocelot’s silhouette cut-out technique, similar to that recently explored by artist Kara Walker, tends to look self-same from story to story, though the characters and time periods differ.

In each story the imagery dazzles at first, then becomes somewhat dreary; Ocelot’s storytelling never quite matches his visual abilities.


Ocelot’s capacity to portray transformation — a boy turns into a wolf, a girl becomes a doe — can be quite startling, magical even, but the images offer only fleeting moments of wonder.

“Tales of the Night.” No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 24 minutes. At the Downtown Independent, Los Angeles.