Tuesday, November 13, 2012
The latest from animator Don Hertzfeldt, this piece is three 15-20 minute cartoons about Bill, a man with an unstated neurodegenerative condition, and his common and curious thoughts and experiences.
THE festival gem. I'm a fan of Hertzfeldt in general and had this down as my festival must-see. After all, a movie like this isn't going to see any sort of wide-release, it's only going to play the festival circuit.
Being a fan of Hertzfeldt, however, did not prepare me for this movie. I knew he could push paper animation farther than anyone else and that he could plumb the depths of absurdist, black humor. I never expected to be crying by the end of one of his pieces and trying not to cry now, nearly a month later, remembering it.
The trilogy, billed by the Film Fest as The Everything Will Be OK Trilogy (Hertzfeldt's title for the complete work is It's Such a Beautiful Day) is three cartoons: "Everything Will Be OK," "I Am So Proud of You," and, "It's Such a Beautiful Day." The first piece is posted in its entirety here and, while visually it goes beyond anything Hertzfeldt's done before, the content feels like classic Hertzfeldt--absurd, dark, and wry, which is not a criticism. The short has hilarious moments--"Downtown, the hot smell of manure blew past him as he walked. Bill soon came upon 3 dead horses in the road, apparently struck down by a large moving vehicle. Well, he thought, that would explain the smell then." "His ex-girlfriend said she'd be really creeped out if she knew Bill's severed head was floating around above her in space."--but had a palpable shift in the middle where I realized, while the audience was still laughing, this wasn't funny anymore, that there was something tragic happening on screen.
Rather than have sync-sound and dialogue, Hertzfeldt instead narrates the entire trilogy in a constant, straight, unaffected tone. This, initially, heightens the humor and absurdity, but, as the movie goes on, increases the tragedy. It's like having someone read a story to you were horrible things keep happening and they won't stop no matter how much you ask. They just keep plowing along. Which makes the really heartbreaking moments--when a scene is repeated 3 times with the same narration and the same cadence, when he says, "That hand keeps dropping things," when a character is said to be softly crying--hit harder. The unaffected tone keeps things from becoming melodramatic and makes the moment of revelation, that this isn't funny, hit so much harder.
I could go on and on about the beauty of this film and obsess over every part, every decision made in the telling, but it would make for boring reading. This is a trilogy and every part stands alone and is remarkable in its own way, but as a trilogy it manages the amazing feat of rewriting itself and your understanding of it by the end of the third part. The first part means something else after the third part and is no longer funny. Only tragic and sad and beautiful.
This is the best movie I've seen all year.