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  • Cole Delaney

Calamity, a Childhood of Martha Jane Cannary (2020)

First Impression - Feature Review

Calamity or Calamity, a Childhood of Martha Jane Cannary, is the second feature film from french animator Rémi Chayé. It follows a reimagined, spirited childhood of the titular Martha Jane Cannary as she roams along the Oregon trail, branching into the wild west of America along it's frontiers.

Similar to Long Way North (2015), Chayé focuses on a powerful young girl, who goes against the rigours of society in order to follow her heart and, as a result, makes a name for herself. Calamity has a lot of heart, and as Martha Jane gains more freedom, the story does too. She exchanges her skirts for pants, and sets off on a trail to track down stolen goods from their wagon. She's met constantly with the scorn attributed to the patriarchal nature that rules the land, and disguises herself as a boy.

What I really liked about Calamity is the confidence in which the frontier is shown. Chayé has no problem holding long shots, allowing the landscape to breath, forcing us to acknowledge it as a character, both equally beautiful and unforgiving. How the artists rendered the landscapes are breathtaking. You won't find lines in this feature, which shows the impeccable knowledge of colour to be able to balance the landscapes as well as the characters so they don't blend into each other without defining lines.

While I don't think the story holds any great revelations, there were moments that really stood out for me. Especially when Martha Jane is climbing through a mine. I've never felt so viscerally effected by an animated feature before, thinking about being in her shoes. I feel that's where the success of Calamity lies, although I was aware that this is a story aimed at inspiring a younger generation, the portrayal of the landscape never felt safe, and that danger is felt throughout. Being around people, the fun and calamity ensues, but in the wilderness, they painted an excellent picture of a raw world.

Calamity is a great step forward from Long Way North and Rémi Chayé has completely distinguished himself in the field of European, and indeed, Global animation. I think I'll watch Long Way North again now actually.

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