Thursday, January 10, 2013

It's Such a Beautiful Day

For over a decade now, Don Hertzeldt has been doodling his stickmen in the margins of the animation industry. Turns out all along he was creating a modern slapstick equivalent of John Donne’s Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, except instead of a feverish poet-priest we have an amnesiac guy in a hat afraid of crotch-fruit. Combining all three shorts in Hertzeldt’s so-called “Billology” into one feature, It’s Such a Beautiful Day is the culmination of the director’s previous work, as well as a considerable extension of his talents. His humour, an energetic mix of surreal violence and caustic non-sequiturs (eg. “In their later years grandma’s family moved to the big city, where her mother lived out the rest of her days making jam and persecuting Jews”), is back in full force, but now leavened with a newfound tenderness towards his characters. The visual innovations of The Meaning of Life—an equally suitable title for this work—have been consolidated and expanded. Densely layered sound and interpolations of live-action images combine to create a richly realized world populated by nothing more than quivering stick figures. Who needs the listless, cold worlds of computer animation? Art created by machines is best appreciated by robots. Hertzfeldt’s handicraft visions are for the rest of us.

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