J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

David Firth’s Umbilical World


The American Psychiatric Association’s “Goldwater Rule” stipulates members should never offer an opinion on a person’s menta health if they have not examined them personally. They might be able to make an exception in the case of animator David Firth, just by watching his new feature length stitch-up of his assorted shorts. For instance, it seems pretty safe to presume Firth has an abiding fear of insects and doctors. If you thought the universe was darkly absurd, wait till you view it from Firth’s perspective throughout Umbilical World (trailer here), which is now available for purchase.

Firth has assembled and generally mooshed together thirteen years’ worth of shorts, including his signature character, Salad Fingers. Of course, they all flow pretty well together, because they all share a macabrely surreal sensibility. Fingers is in for a time of it, but he is still not exactly what you might call a sympathetic character. He lives in a desert wasteland, where he has possibly gone mad. Again, he is not the only one.

Characters in Umbilical World often find their will has been subverted, usually by sinister doctors or highly evolved insect-beings. In fact, the Orwellian double-speak of the medical profession inspires the film’s funniest segment. Piercing serpentine tentacles are a recurring motif throughout it all—hence the “Umbilical” title.

Firth actually appeared in Flying Lotus’s weird freak-out Kuso, which might not mean much to most people, but if it means anything to you, it most likely means a lot. In terms of the vibe, think Bill Plympton crossed with Eraserhead. Frankly, short films are probably a more suitable format for Firth, because eighty minutes of lopping off heads and inserting tentacles gets frightfully exhausting.

Still, there is no denying the singularity of Firth’s vision. He is a mad genius of animation, so his admirers must have mixed feelings whether they should hope he ever receives the intensive therapy he so clearly needs. You should already know by now whether Umbilical World is your cup of tea, so shop accordingly. It is now available to stream or purchase through Firth’s website, just in time for Christmas.

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