Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Rarely does a new filmmaker have a built-in audience. An audience so rabid yet loyal, they would venture to a venue teeming with puffy coats, Uggs, and D-list celebrity to see a project connected to one of, as the purple-velvet-sport-coated announcer put it last night, "the hottest" bands today. Yes, I'm talking about the Sundance Film Festival.
Director Danny Perez lucked out. As a roadie for the Black Dice, an oft favorite opener for the aforementioned "hot" Animal Collective, he became friends with the Collective and together embarked on a four-year long process of collaboration to create ODDSAC. Luck seems to cut both ways: Perez pairing with Animal Collective clearly got his first film a world premiere at Sundance, but when not backed by the sometimes brilliant soundtrack created by the band, the movie comes off as a disjointed film school project.
The movie opened with a young woman pacing a room with fire dancers visibly outside the window, she is then occupied by black tar oozing out of a crack in the wall of the room. Perez should have saved this montage for the end, since it was the strongest and most beautiful of the film and it proved to be a tough act to follow.
Unfortunately, it was all down hill from there. Heavily influenced by Matthew Barney of the Cremaster Cycle, the audience was forced into a disjointed journey that included a sad vampire, marshmallows eating a family, a food fight with a glittered man (straight from the Barney playbook), and a midnight canoe ride, to mention a few. The bright points in the film were strictly auditory. The first line from Panda Bear's honeyed voice had audience members unclenching their armrests and settling back in their seats to listen to why he wishes he "wouldn't feel so drained, if he could only keep his hands away." Beautiful and pared down, this song was an oasis of calm after what seemed like an eternity of stylized TV snow and feedback.
It was clear who had filled the seats of Prospector Square Theatre. The Q and A was directed mostly at Deacon, the Geologist, and Avey Tare (Panda Bear was sadly absent), while Danny Perez nervously swayed side-to-side. Questions about the collaborative process, where the band would be playing after the screening, and favorite films dominated over technical questions regarding ODDSAC. When one audience member directed a question at Perez in regards to the editing process and what tools he used, he answered candidly that you need, "...black curtains to block out the light and your girlfriend...leaves for the day and you spend five hours on YouTube..." Bless this lucky schmuck's heart.
A part of me realizes that Danny Perez didn't expect his film to be graced by a world premiere at Sundance. This film would have fit better at Tromadance or Slamdance. Had the film been cut into shorts and peddled as music videos, it would have been easier to handle. Understanding that when this process began, Animal Collective had yet to create their more accessible albums Strawberry Jam and Merriweather Post Pavilion. This seems a better explanation for the "tweaked," less "songy" soundtrack, as explained by Avey Tare.
When questioned about the meaning or plot of the film, Perez wanted to "leave it to you" to figure out what it means. I think he may not have known, either.