Monday, December 08, 2008

Angry Ticks & Backward Cows

A couple of weeks ago, I went to the IFC Center for “a night with” Don Hertzfeldt. (Photo at right courtesy of my lovely friend PF, who accompanied me into a den of mostly male nerd-dom.) The animator was on hand to take questions after a screening of several of his short films, including the premiere of his latest, “I am so proud of you.”

I’ve posted some of Hertzfeldt’s work before. The two shorts that lose the least viewed online are “Billy’s Balloon” and the classic “Rejected,” which has been viewed nearly 2.5 million times. Seeing even those simpler drawings on the big screen was a treat, but it’s Hertzfeldt’s recent and longer work that really shouldn’t be viewed in YouTube-quality. (You can order DVDs from his site.)

The 12-minute “The Meaning of Life” is hysterical and oddly moving, and features some stunning animation of deep space. “I am so proud of you” is the second short, after “Everything Will be OK" (17 minutes), in a planned trilogy about an everyman named Bill. The films use both illustration and photography, and in their alternately funny and poignant concern with memory, mortality, and boredom, they come off like a hand-drawn combination of Itchy & Scratchy, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Office Space.

Around the time of the showing, Hertzfeldt was featured in this New York Times article about animated filmmakers. Worth a look.

After the screening, I bought a couple of DVDs, and asked Hertzfeldt a question. "That scene in Rejected, right after the giant rabbit shoots angry ticks out of his nipples," I said, "he marches toward those scared kids and makes this amazing sound. It's like an apocalyptic air-raid siren or something. You know what I'm talking about?" "Sure," he said, "That's the sound of a cow, slowed down about 50% and played backwards."



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