Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
The Creeping Garden: Day of the Slime Mold
you do, do not call slime mold fungi. That was yesterday’s classification.
Mostly they are mycetozoan amoebozoa, but they definitely have a fungus-like
look. However, they exhibit an unclassifiable collective intelligence that
would scare the bejesus out of Dr. Nils Hellstrom. Slime mold finally gets its
well-deserved close-up in Tim Grabham & Jasper Sharp’s The Creeping Garden (trailer here), which opens this
Wednesday at Film Forum.
slime mold has never attracted as much attention from nature lovers and
scientists as birds or pretty much every other species of animal, it still
manages to attract a small but hardy group of “admirers.” Grabham & Sharp
will knock about the woods with one such citizen naturalist, ogling the oozing patches
they find on dead logs. They will also retreat into the lab, where legitimate
scientists study slime molds’ ability to navigate mazes and detour around
poisoned spots. We even meet science-inspired artists who use the branching
patterns of slime molds in their work.
addition to marveling at its slow but steady creepiness, Grabham & Sharp
also celebrate the time-lapse photography that made their film possible. They
even pay tribute to Percy Smith, the British pioneer of time-lapse microscopic
technology in a cool tangent. Frankly, his 1931 slime mold documentary Magic Mixies still holds up pretty well,
at least from what we see of it.
may have gotten there first, but Grabham & Sharp are not exactly traveling
down a well-worn path. Perhaps realizing audiences might need some selling on
slime mold, they evoke the trippy 1970s vibe of The Hellstrom Chronicle and the eccentric docs based on Future Shock and Chariots of the Gods without overplaying their hand. They also
include archival footage of John Chancellor reporting the discovery of a mysterious
batch of slime mold in Texas, on what must have been the slowest news night in
recorded human history. Yet, the film still feels slightly padded, especially
during a gimmicky human-slime mold social behavior experiment that goes on too
Still, you have to admire a film with this much
confidence in viewers’ intelligence. It almost sounds like the product of a
dare, but Grabham & Sharp prove you can make a compelling film about slime
mold. Grabham and co-cinematographers Ben Ellsworth and Clare Richards capture
some incredible scenes of slime mold growth and development—it is all pretty gross
at times, but mesmerizing. Recommended for your inner nose-picking bratty kid
fascinated by creepy-crawling things, The
Creeping Garden opens this Wednesday (9/30) in New York at Film Forum.
Labels: Documentary, Slime Mold