For Part Two on Craig Thompson, click here. The introduction is here.
Like Carnet de Voyage, though less explicitly, Pyongyang: a Journey in North Korea is a journal of a trip. In this case it’s Guy Delisle’s business trip to North Korea. Delisle, a French Canadian, worked for a French animation company, which farmed out big chunks of the actual animation to North Korea (Delisle says that Eastern European studios also get lots of this sort of work). Basically, the North Koreans take their cue from the the “key” drawings in a movement sequence and fill in the drawings between them. Delisle supervised their work.
But animation “experiences,” though informative (think about the whale rendering passages in Moby Dick, except shorter), don’t occupy many of the frames of Pyongyang. Instead, Delisle records the life he finds in North Korea. There is one very great difficulty to this: He must be accompanied everywhere he goes by a guide and translator. And he must stay in an almost empty hotel for foreigners, which is cut off from the rest of the city. So the book takes us on a series of excursions, some more impromptu than others, as Delisle attempts to get closer to the “real” Korea than the government wants him to get. If anyone has a complaint about loneliness, it’s Delisle, but he rarely mentions it. Instead, he works on his guides, trying to trick them into an admission of some kind or get them to take him somewhere off-limits. They seem pretty tolerant, even friendly in a distant sort of way, but they are NOT going to fall for Delisle’s tricks.
Continue reading Part three — Guy Delisle: How empty is it?