Dispatches from Denver Film
A night of horror and an uplifting afternoon
Last night at 11:15 I frantically cycled my way half-blind down dark streets, took wrong turns, wished I’d put on gloves and sweated through my jeans. It took corrections and some illegal sidewalk-riding, but I managed to land my puffing ass at the Denver Film Center on Colfax in time to snag my ticket to The ABC’s of Death.
Part of DFF’s “Watching Hour”, if you think you might know what that title means you’re probably right. it’s 26 short films by 26 directors spanning the alphabet and globe, doing their best through animation, live action and even claymation to scare the bejeezus out of the people who landed in the theatre that night. By the time we reached “Z”, the assembled crew of pieces was motley at best. There were thrillingly brilliant little pieces with social commentary, true gonzo grotesquities with no waiting for the full-on hardcore gore, and definitely more than one that made you just scratch your head and say “What. The. Fuck.” The films in Japanese probably take the cake on that one, including the one in the picture above. I won’t tell you what letter it’s for, but I’ll give you a hint: it involves flatulence.
By far the most bizarre was the closing piece which involved sex acts involving over-wet sushi rice, a lot of talk about nukes, naked people eating fish, and a giant penis fight. The penis is worn by a woman. But I have to be honest, this is exactly what I love about film festivals. It’s an absolute one-of-a-kind trip into the weird, even if you do have to put up with some thoroughly disturbing moments along the way. My favorite short by far was ‘T’, which I won’t spoil but which involves this image:
This afternoon I dashed very similarly late into a very different kind of movie: Persistence of Vision. Directed by Kevin Schreck, I actually got a chance to sit down with him before the film for a short chat about his documentary. The subject is one of the most ambitious works of animation ever undertaken; a movie called The Thief and the Cobbler that, to do service to its creator Richard Williams, never truly saw the light of day. Talking with Schreck,you learn that his interest in the film started as simple fandom: he liked animation and got turned onto an unearthed re-cut of the original masterpiece before William’s very literal 25 years of work went, essentially, down the tubes. But Schreck succeeds in taking the audience much further into the story and painting a better picture of true doggedness in the interest of creative perfection. Seamlessly winding together archival footage and interviews with numerous animators over the three decades of the film’s production, we get to glimpse not only Richard William’s brilliance and vision, but also the fantastic humanity that lies behind great works.
Fielding questions after the showing, Schreck speaks as far older than his 23 years—perhaps in part because his interest in Williams has spanned almost half his lifetime. The film itself took five years to create, but he had begun reading William’s book on animation back when he was 11. Starting with a simple Kickstarter account, pennies were scraped together to make this movie a reality and the finished product is elating, sad, measured and thrilling. Pretty incredible for pieced together bits of a movie that never made it to true completion. Schreck gives nothing away in his film if you don’t already know the story, so I won’t ruin it for readers here. But what I will do is say that anyone in a creative profession, or anyone who likes a good documenetary, should go see the film for it’s final screening at this year’s festival: tomorrow (Sunday, Nov. 4) at 7:15pm a the Denver Pavillions. It may be your only chance to see this film, so make sure you don’t miss a great example of Denver doing art well, and an artist executing their craft perfectly.