Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Slamdance ’17: Dave Made a Maze
could almost appreciate it as a masterwork of outsider art, if it were not so
lethal. Rather, inconveniently, it happens to be right smack dab in the middle
of Dave and Annie’s living room. When the latter returns from a business trip, she
discovers the former has been lost inside for three days. She and an oddball
group of friends discover it is bizarrely cavernous inside, sort of like the
Tardis, but with booby traps. DIY constructionism takes a weirdly fantastical
turn in Bill Watterson’s Dave Built a
which premiered during the 2017 Slamdance Film Festival.
call it a maze—it’s a labyrinth. Hence, there must be traps and yes, a
minotaur. Dave did not create those per se. His cardboard Escher-like
construction just took on a life of its own. Much to Annie’s frustration, he
will not let her simply cut into it. He has too much pride in his creation. It
could also be catastrophically dangerous given the structure’s instability. The
exasperated Annie calls in his friend Gordon as back-up. Unfortunately, the
scene soon turns into a circus. Eventually, she just heads into its cave like
entrance, with whoever cares to tag along. However, things get real in a hurry
when several of their more expendable friends are quickly killed off.
is hard to fairly convey a sense of the film’s tone. You would never call it
cutesy or quirky, nor is it dark or moody. One might start with Michel Gondry
and Edgar Wright as reference points, but they are still not quite right.
Regardless, Maze is wildly inventive
and slyly funny, featuring some absolutely incredible cardboard set designs.
Production designers Trisha Gum and John Sumner, along with art director Jeff
White deserve standing ovations for what they have realized (presumably on a
not-so extravagant budget).
is also plenty of snappy, archly sarcastic dialogue, delivered with
pitch-perfect aplomb by Adam Busch and James Urbaniuk (a.k.a. Ned Rifle), as
Gordon and Harry the aspiring documentarian, respectively. Nick Thune’s titular
Dave is necessarily a bit off a sad sack, but Meera Rohit Kumbhani’s Annie just
lights up the screen with her smart, grounded, star-making presence.
Frankly, it is kind of shocking how well Maze works. There is nothing twee about
it, especially not the tripped-out animated sequences. It is all kind of nuts,
but it adheres to its own system of illogic. Very highly recommended for cult
film fans, Dave Made a Maze screens
again tomorrow (1/23), as part of this year’s Slamdance in Park City.
Labels: James Urbaniak, Slamdance '17