Sunday, September 26, 2004

Animation, Abstracted and Distracting

Last night I went to see one of the competitions of the Ottawa Animation Festival. Interesting to note the way they divide up the categories: instructional or industrial, narrative, non-narrative. It's this last category that tends to irritate me.
The non-narrative category is usually where the competition puts what I'd call "art films," or films that only an art critic could love. They don't need a story, hence the "non-narrative" designation. The key to understanding these types of films is that you respond based on what you bring with you--it's your own life, intellectual, and emotional experiences that allow you to decide whether or not you'd like such a film.
The first non-narrative in this particular competition is Welcome to Kentucky by Craig Welch, produced by the NFB. It's the closest one of the three non-narratives to traditional animation. It's a stream of consciousness type of film; representational imagery moves, then flows into a new image. Welch's film works well enough as a "waking dream," but you'd need to have at least some understanding of "stream of consciousness" to really appreciate what it does.
The next non-narrative was Martha Colbourn's XXX Amsterdam Drunken Globalization. I met Colbourn at last year's Ottawa Student Animation Festival, and she's a nice enough woman, and I know she has a following, but quite frankly I don't care for her work. Collage cutouts of porn pictures moving about via stop motion--okay, that meets the bare-bones definition of animation, but just barely. The thing about Colbourn is that her films tend to look like my bedroom: a high-energy mess. And this is no exception.
But at least Colbourn has the virtue of using representational images. The worst of the lot was Interception by Rena Del Pieve Gobbi. An epileptic flurry of abstract imagery, I gather from the end credits that she made this film as a form of therapy for dealing with sexual assault. The problem is, therapy is not meant to be seen in public.
We were issued voting ballots. I wound up voting for Harvey Birdman : Peanut Therapy. Yes, it's conventional TV with a rude attitude, but at least I can understand it.