Review: La Maison en Petits Cubes

La Maison en Petits Cubes (House of Small Cubes)/ created by Kunio Kato/ 2008 (Japan)

La Maison en Petits Cubes (House of Small Cubes) won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film this Year. Fresh off the heels of the best acceptance speech ever (sorry Geo, the Man on Wire disappearing coin was good, so was Sean Penn’s sentiments on Prop 8, and the Heath Ledger win was moving, but this dude thanked his pencil, and the domo arigato mr.roboto made more sense after I watched the short film, all acceptance speeches from now on should handled by Japanese men):

I decided I had to take some precious time off of work and school to give this short film a look and review.


La Maison en Petits Cubes tells the story of a man living in house surrounded by water. As the water rises he must build another level to his house to stay dry. One day, he loses his favorite pipe in the water. As he descends into the waters through different stories, he relives the scenes of his life.

The Review

Subtle and simplistic, yet oh so very powerful. I was riveted more by the 11 minutes of this short film than I have by some full length animated features…

(hit the jump to read the rest of my review, and the video of La Maison en Petit Cubes)

The animation is a very traditional 2D style. Instead of the vivid colors and thick black lines of most 2D animated shows/ films, Kunio Kato and company decided to go with a very pencil like design with muted colors. Almost as if taken straight from someone’s sketch book. And for this film, it works wonderfully. The art style is enhanced even more by the subtle piano score by Kenji Kondo. The music never gets threatening and always stays in a reflective mood. This is the way it should be as the story is a reflection of the old man’s life.

To be frank, I had no idea what I was getting into when I started watching the film. The first couple of minutes were interesting, but I had no connection to the old man. I got the fact that he had to build atop his house to stay dry, but why should I care. Then something clicked once he dropped his pipe. You felt real emotion as he watched it float gently to the botom. Then when he descended into the lower stories of his house, the juxtaposition of the stories he lived came to life. And as he kept descending further, you get a sense of what this man has been through. The climax of a world once forgotten really hits home at the end. You don’t necessarily feel sorry for him, but you can feel the loneliness in his life, and you feel like you know what he’s been through.  And just like Wall-E, all this done without a single word of dialogue spoken. Only 11 minutes and I felt like I lived this dude’s life. Simply amazing…

I haven’t seen the other Academy Award Nominated Animated Short Films (save for Presto), but I can see why La Maison en Petits Cubes took home the Oscar. I don’t see any live action film coming close to touching the emotions that are illicited from this 11 minute short. This was a story only animation and cartoons could tell. After I was done watching, I once again was refreshed and inspired to move forward on my dream.

Watch La Maison en Petits Cubes here:

Vodpod videos no longer available.
I hope you all have a chance to watch this before the copyright kicks in and they make me take this down =)


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