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Sunday 14 April 2013

Film Review - It's Such a Beautiful Day

I'm not familiar with Don Hertzfeldt's body of work. Up until a week ago, I had only ever seen Rejected, a series of crude, surreal animated shorts. It's a nine-minute slice of weirdness, the kind of thing that works well as the opener for a midnight movie. Each sequence is wildly unpredictable and often violent, punctuated by non-sequiturs like "My spoon is too big!" and "My anus is bleeding!" Just your typical talking banana, singing creampuff dialogue.

I love the manic energy and invention that went into Rejected, and I was ready for more of the same when I put on Hertzfeldt's latest, It's Such a Beautiful Day. Instead, I was surprised, and quite impressed, to see him applying the same animation techniques in a vastly different emotional register. It's Such a Beautiful Day is the story of a stick figure named Bill's mental collapse. It's hard to convey the poignancy of that stick figure's dilemma without sounding sarcastic or gullible, but once you've seen the movie you'll be amazed how genuinely affecting the execution really is. The same crudity that was put to humorous or abstract use in Rejected is used to reflect Bill's shrinking world.

I'm a fan of all types of animation, but I don't think I've ever seen so much done with so little. It's a simplicity that comes from mastery of the form. I'd recommend It's Such a Beautiful Day to anyone, but those who've seen Rejected will get the added pleasure of bearing witness to Hertzfeldt's versatility. He certainly knows how to dredge absurdities from his subconscious, but he can also deliver a story straight from the heart. This is one of the best and most surprising works of art I've seen in awhile.

1 comment:

  1. I really liked a short called "Everything Will Be Ok" that was on one of the volumes of some animation compilation put out by Hertzfeldt and Mike Judge. I've seen "Rejected," too, I think on another volume. I'd agree that the simplicity of it all is a whole lot of the beauty. There's just so much creativity, like he's squeezing an orange peel that doesn't even have fruit in it and making grape juice.

    Ok, I looked this up and it's a trilogy that includes (the first part) the "Everything Will Be Ok" one. I'll look forward to watching this one, too.