Fresh from the Festivals: July 2001's Film Reviews
Seasoned industry animator Patrick Smith also created his independent short, Drink, using a combination of traditional methods and computer technologies. An exercise in both metamorphosis and character design, the plot centers on a young boy who drinks a strange green fluid from a flask (note: do not try this at home, kiddies) and finds himself evolving into a series of different individuals. These characters evolve one from another in a growing pile, so that eventually the boy finds himself (back in his original form) sitting high above the ground on a stack of 'peeled' layers from the various forms. Taking another drink, the transformation occurs in reverse.
The images used in Drink were drawn with pencil on paper and scanned into a computer, where they were colored. Adobe Photoshop and Adobe After Effects were the software applications used. Backgrounds were painted with acrylic. Eventually, the images were transferred back to 35mm film. Music was provided by Karl vonKries; the film is without dialogue.
Smith's goal was to retain a rather informal aesthetic in the work, so lines are left somewhat unrefined (particularly for in-betweens), where construction lines and even timing notes sometimes appear. I find the contrast between relatively clean and sharp extremes and rougher in-betweens a bit uneasy at times, but the result is nonetheless unique. Smith acknowledges inspiration by Bill Plympton, which is clear in the initial 'unzipping' of new characters so characteristic of a Plympton short; however, the characters themselves are original and well-designed. The director also cites illustrator Ralph Steadman as an influence in terms of the 'raw' and painterly look he aimed for in Drink. The underlying concept, that every individual possesses a wide range of personas, ranging from rich to poor, young to old, and male to female, is an interesting one and well represented by Smith's ability to create a series of distinct character designs. Professionally, Smith has animated, directed and designed for Disney, Olive Jar and MTV. Currently, he is directing the fifth season of the MTV series Daria.
In a very different way, Lorelei Pepei has revealed the breadth of her skills as an animator in her experimental short, Grace. With resume credentials that include CG animation for the South Park feature Bigger, Longer and Uncut, as well as stop-motion animation and assistant camera for Corky Quakenbush's Mad TV animation, one would hardly expect to see an artist produce a highly subjective, sensual film centering on a woman's experience. But Pepei's self-described "layered and flowing poem of visual metaphor" is an interesting piece, both in terms of its aesthetics and its production techniques. Eschewing the use of computer technology, the director used pixilation, single frame projection, optical printing and stop-motion under the camera to create images of performer Susan Simpson. Flame effects were made with the use of mink oil painted frame by frame onto Plexiglas.
Pepei's aesthetic is attributed to her influence by such artists as filmmakers Pat O'Neill, Walerian Borowczyk and Patrick Bokanowski, as well as early photographer Margaret Cameron and fine artists Francis Bacon and Joseph Cornell. She also cites an interest in fantasy Victorian postcards. This blend suggests a fascination with objects and individuals that are re-evaluated through a modern perspective and visual dissection. Pepei explains that she tried to access an unconscious flow in her exploration of the body, which is divided into four parts and the separation between flesh and soul. The film's sound design was created by Eric Patrick; it is without dialogue.
Grace was created on 16mm film as an MFA thesis film in experimental animation at the California Institute of the Arts. Pepei not only directed the work, but also served as producer, art director, cinematographer and editor. Among the awards it has been given is the Grand Prize "Best of Festival" at the International Student Animation Festival of Ottawa and the 2nd Grand Prize "High Risk" at the Fantoche Festival in Baden, Switzerland.