J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Friday, November 14, 2014

DOC NYC ’14: The Chaperone (short)

It is a lot like School House Rock, but with rampaging bikers and Kung Fu. It incorporates retro hand drawn animation, stop motion, live action martial arts sequences, and exploding papier-mâché heads. It is also a documentary. Fraser Munden and co-director Neil Rathbone pretty much have it all in their thirteen minute true-story smackdown The Chaperone (trailer here), which screens during this year’s DOC NYC.

Ralph Whims is a dedicated teacher and a natural bad-ass. To this day, he remains cult-famous in his Montreal neighborhood for the night he faced down a gang of bikers that crashed the youth social he was chaperoning. High and disorderly, the bikers were knowingly terrorizing the intimidated church kids, until Whims stepped up. He pretty much handled them Bruce Lee-style, but he got a timely assist from the DJ, Stefan Czernatowicz—and they have remained close friends ever since. It was the 1970s, this sort of thing happened back then.

Munden and Rathbone give an animated blow-by-blow of the encounter and its pretty awesome. They also throw in all kinds of weird interludes and asides, including close-ups of the bikers’ heads going poof. (It’s a symbolically rendered poof.)  They create a wildly funky vibe through the appropriately funky soundtrack, the early ‘70s period details, and the massively cool attitude. However, with his narration, Whims also offers some darned practical advice to anyone facing down a pack of thugs. He knew how to handle himself, that’s for sure.

Nostalgia is rarely as action-packed as it is here. Pound-for-pound, second-by-second, The Chaperone has to be the most wildly entertaining film screening at DOC NYC. Highly recommended for fans of animation, exploitation teen films, and afterschool specials, The Chaperone screens before Rubble Kings this Sunday evening (11/16).

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