GIRAF Animation Festival streaming Canada-wide Nov. 19-28

Cage Match

Cage Match is essentially a stress dream, drawn from the same subconscious source that brought you the test you forgot study for and the job you forgot you still had—just ramped up to 11. What starts off looking like just a moment of claustrophobia quickly becomes a battle royale between beefy super-wrestlers.

A ballpoint pen drawing of a group of businessmen in a tightly-packed elevator

Bryan Lee's earlier student short Chikin already contains a lot of the elements that make Cage Match so memorable: the hyper-muscular figures, the gracefully absurd movement, and the pure glee of its nonsensical storytelling. But where Chikin is a minute-and-a-half of joyful non-sequiturs, practically over before it begins, Cage Match is nearly ten minutes of sustained high-octane silliness. And that's exactly why we love it.

Cage Match is essentially a stress dream, drawn from the same subconscious source that brought you the test you forgot study for and the job you forgot you still had—just ramped up to 11. What starts off looking like just a moment of claustrophobia quickly becomes a battle royale between beefy super-wrestlers, with a burly announcer shouting colourful commentary and ratcheting up the anxiety. Lee keeps things loose, his ballpoint-pen artwork positioning the whole thing somewhere between a doodle and a dream, stylized bodies overextending and distorting like the Platonic ideal of pro wrestling.

There are elements of Cage Match that aim at social commentary, at the crushing effects of working life and the way it erodes our enjoyment of the world. What elevates it above the many other shorts sharing that same message, though, is the way it genuinely captures the pure joy of childish imagination. The blue pen lines reinforce it—Cage Match is the doodles at the edge of meeting notes brought to glorious life and given free reign. It doesn't always make sense, and it never takes itself seriously, but it sure does make the world a better place.

dir: Bryan Lee
syn: A businessman enters an elevator for another day of work...

2019