Dubbed Anime And “Rocks In My Pockets”

Watching badly dubbed American anime taught me one truth about voice work in English-language animation.  Good voice work gives life to the hand-drawn characters seen onscreen.  Bad voice work undercuts the power found in the moving drawings and objects.

Signe Baumane’s voice work on her animated film “Rocks In My Pockets” unfortunately falls into the second category.

How can this happen, you might say.   The film won a Fipresci prize at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival.  It takes a dark subject, the history of depression that’s plagued women in Baumane’s family, and finds mordant humor in the five fantastical  stories it tells of these women (including Baumane herself).

Yet Baumane chooses to narrate her film as a sort of solo drama.  While that decision may have saved on the monetary cost of hiring a Josh Kornbluth,  the cost to the power of Baumane’s stories is too great.  Absurdity and the darkness of suicidal thinking feel equally flat and uninteresting when they need different vocal emphases.

It needn’t have happened this way.  Anybody who can make darkly amusing musings on the best way of hanging oneself to death without leaving a nasty mess for the living to clean up is someone with something meaningful to say about living with depression.

If you can mentally filter out Baumane’s voice, you can find tragic and insightful bits throughout the film.   A particularly moving tale involves Baumane’s very bright yet naive grandmother whose marriage to her then-married boss left her physically and socially trapped in a situation where suicide seemed a reasonable course of action.

“Rocks In My Pockets” is in the middle of a very short run at the Roxie Theater (3117-16th Street, SF).  If you are willing to put up with its flaws and can catch the film before it leaves after this Wednesday, it might be worth catching if you’re passing on the French film noir festival also playing at the Roxie right now.  Just don’t set your expectations bar too high.


About the Author

I'm a film reviewer for the Beyond Chron blog. Agnes Varda and Hirokazu Kore-eda are among my favorite filmmakers. I occasionally break down and watch a good action film...but don't tell anyone.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.