RIDM, Nov. 14: Kids’ author goes far out

A children’s author turned controversial illustrator is profiled in an engaging and thought-provoking biography.

If, like me, one of your favourite children’s books from eons ago was Crictor (1958) — the whimsical story of the boa constrictor who gets adopted by the open-minded, dainty old lady Madame Bodot, and ultimately, by the entire French village she lives in — then, whether you know it or not, you’re already familiar with the work of Tomi Ungerer.

The author and illustrator was born in Strasbourg in 1932. Some of his earliest childhood memories are of the devastating changes to his home life and community that took place after the Nazis occupied France. Injustice and inhumanity would become the overriding theme of much of his later illustration work.

Inspired from a young age by the artwork of The New Yorker magazine, and particularly of Saul Steinberg, Ungerer landed in the States at the tender age of 25 and spent the next 20 years making waves with his award-winning children’s books and later, his controversial anti-Vietnam posters and satiric sado-masochistic erotica.

Brad Bernstein’s Far Out Isn’t Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story is a rare and richly textured biography that intersperses riveting interview sequences featuring Ungerer himself with animated flourishes, adapted from drawings and sculptures from the artist’s vast collection.

Not one to shy away from controversy, Ungerer is thankfully given free reign by director Bernstein to pontificate on subjects reaching from his abhorrence of racism to the joys of big bottoms. Far from being a dry PBS-inspired “portrait of the artist,” Far Out Isn’t Far Enough is one of the most engaging and thought-provoking biographies of recent memory. ■

Tonight at the Cinémathèque Québécoise (335 de Maisonneuve E.), 5:15PM


Also screening today and recommended by us: The Punk Syndrome, Cinémathèque, 9:15 p.m.

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