Last Exit on St. Laurent Street: The Wonderfully Fucked Up World of Ryan Larkin
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Walking. © National Film Board of Canada. All rights reserved.

The result of this two-year project was Walking, one of the most celebrated films made at the NFB and one that remains a major influence on animators to this day. Using a combination of line drawing and colour wash, Larkin observes the movements of a variety of urban characters. Larkin weaves colours and sounds with an extraordinarily detailed visualization of faces, bodies, gestures and postures. A vivid imagining of the city and those within it.

Walking received an Oscar nomination and Larkin travelled to Hollywood with his girlfriend, Felicity. The Oscars provided Larkin with a chance to put his beatnik persona and wild wardrobe to practice. Larkin had hair that was about three feet long and made his own clothes. "I would sew together my own pair of pants in special colours. It was coming out earlier I think, I was always performing, trying to look outrageous by whatever standards were established, just being a punk." For the Oscars, Larkin selected a flashy silk, wide sleeve shirt and tight fitting pants with bright colours.

Walking didn't win. Disney, who had died a year earlier, won for Ward Kimball's It's Tough to be a Bird. But Larkin had a great time and a rather strange experience. While in a hotel lobby, a man approached Larkin and said, "Hey, I know you. I've seen your helicopter up on the roof. I want to introduce you to the senator of New Mexico." The man then led Larkin over to a crowd of people including the Senator. The man introduced Larkin to the Senator: "Well, you've seen him on the Ed Sullivan Show playing his little ukulele." Larkin of course was mistaken for another flowery figure: Tiny Tim.

Walking. © National Film Board of Canada. All rights reserved.

Following Walking, Larkin once again returned to NFB industrial films before being loaned out to a Vancouver art school (maybe Emily Carr, but he can't remember). For eight months, Larkin ran an animation workshop. Each student worked in their own studio and Larkin would travel around visiting them, hanging out and directing them. Larkin encouraged the students to find their own voice no matter how wild their experiments turned out. Among these young voices, Larkin met a group of street musicians. "I decided that they would make a great focal point for my abstract images. There was a whole little gang of them with their own children and stuff, hippies I guess, really good musicians." Larkin's encounter led to his next film, Street Musique.

Very much a film in search of itself, Street Musique opens with live-action footage of two street musicians, before changing into an awesomely animated stream of conscious piece. A variety of creatures and figures float through the screen and undergo a continual metamorphosis. Street Musique is loosely divided into about five or six segments all determined by the pace of the music. One of the most dazzling scenes comes in segment two with a series of extraordinary landscape impressionist paintings. As with most of Larkin's work though you can feel the hesitancy. The film ends rather awkwardly with the last image stopping to wait for the music. "What happened was, I ran out of ideas and I didn't know how to end the film, so I just ended it on a strange little character, wiggling away in his little dance, in a way suggesting that, 'This is to be continued.'" Structural critiques aside, Street Musique is a toe tappin', knee slappin', barn burner of a film solidifying Larkin's talent as an artist and animator.

Street Musique did the festival circuit and won a Grand Prize at an Australian film festival. Larkin is particularly fond of this award because it was a live-action festival. "It was a ten minute film up against all kinds of complicated feature films." Larkin received $3000 with the prize, and because he had a regular salary he often supported other young artists with his prize money. "I had a nine room flat in Montreal that I was renting for $100 a month, if you can believe it, and I'd give money to certain young people to experiment with their art and their music. I'd give them free room and board to hang around. In a sense I had my own school." Sadly, Larkin's generosity with people would come back to haunt him.


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