Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Consuming Spirits: Animating Depression
seems there are some things all newspapermen have in common: a taste for booze
and an abiding bitterness over the state of their lives. It is true at The Times and it is true at the Daily
Suggester, a local broadsheet serving a profoundly depressed burg roughly
situated where the Midwest meets Hill country.
The scandalous history tying together three Suggester employees will come to light in Chris Sullivan’s
years-in-the-making animated feature Consuming
which opens today in New York at Film Forum.
an evening talk radio host and columnist for the Suggester, former ladies man Earl Gray dispenses dark philosophical
truths disguised as gardening tips.
Victor Blue drudges along in a dreary back-office job at the paper with
little hope reclaiming control of his life from the social workers who have
been mismanaging it since he was a child.
He is semi-involved with Gentian Violet, the paper’s paste-up employee
who lives with her senile mother. She
has also just run over a nun, whom she has buried in a fit of panic, even
though the sister was not yet dead. Yes,
perhaps she was slightly under the influence, but who isn’t? This hit-and-run accident will reveal many
secrets in a roundabout way.
film is absolutely not animation for children.
While there are spots of mature content here and there, it is the
overwhelmingly fatalistic vibe that would most trouble younger viewers. Yet, that is also its greatest merit. Consuming
is more closely akin to David Lynch’s vision of small town America (most
notably Twin Peaks and Blue Velvet) than anything produced by
the major animation studios. This is
really not a genre picture in any sense and its revelations are easy to
predict, but there is still something unsettling about it all that lingers with
viewers well after the initial screening.
Consuming is also pretty
notable for its cynical portrayal of social workers, more or less implying they
often compound problems rather than solve them.
On the other hand, those poor nuns really take it in the shins. Sullivan
will spare them no anti-Catholic stereotype.
Still, he nails the rust belt-Appalachian milieu (it smells a lot like
Clark County, Ohio, but it could be any number of places).
Consuming is also quite distinctive,
incorporating claymation and deliberately sketchy line animation for flashbacks. However, the bulk of the present day action
is rendered 2D cut-out animation that seems to perfectly convey the broken
souls inside their flat, crumpled bodies.
There are some wickedly funny moments in Consuming, often coming from the haunted
Gray. Indeed, Robert Levy’s richly
evocative voice-over performance as the “Gardeners Corners” host is one of the
best you will hear in animated films in a month of Sundays. Yet, while Sullivan’s script has its inspired
moments, its overall trajectory is disappointingly conventional. Recommended for animation fans who appreciate
style, tone, and characterization more than narrative, Consuming Spirits opens today (12/12) in New York at Film Forum.
Labels: Animated films, Chris Sullivan