Danny Perez & Animal Collective
Sundance Film Festival 2010
Spoiler alert, I guess- can you spoil something with no plot?
Two weekends ago we had the opportunity to view what director Danny Perez and Animal Collective have dubbed their "visual album," Oddsac. Early information about the film noted that the film was said to be all based on a singular image the band had thought up- a sad Dracula on a boat. That is all I knew about the film prior to viewing. I expected it to be an art film, which it was. I was an art major in college and have had my fill of art films. I really enjoy the genre when done well, but it is more often then not done horribly and results in boredom and weirdness, in a bad way.
Oddsac opened up incredibly promisingly. With alternating imagery of a masked figure at night in a field with flames being thrown about in a circle around him, and a girl in a old rickety wallpapered room. The walls started bleeding tar, blueberry pie filling or something to that extent while the girl frantically tried to plug the wall or push the liquid back to where it came from. This imagery was accompanied by a very slow building pop song, reminiscent of MPP. I was enthralled. My eyes were glued and unblinking. The song faded into a more abstract soundscape as the imagery dissolved into a wash of electric garble. This went on for some time before the next "song" feeling song came as well as the next "image" feeling image. And thus was the story of Oddsac. It continued alternating between incredibly beautiful and creative scenes with recognizable figures paired with songs made up of clear lyrics and melodies then to abstract sounds paired with abstract imagery. I feel like I have seen that type of abstract imagery a million times in artfilms. It felt predictable and like a cushion, like filler in between ideas. Maybe they had a few great songs and image ideas and had to make something in between to paste them all together and make them cohesive somehow. At least, that's what it felt like, which was disappointing. Animal Collective can write incredible drone based noise tracks, but I didn't feel that the "filler" sounds on Oddsac lived up to previous far experimental work of the band. I also think that the opening track was the strongest, which isn't the smarted thing to do in a an art film.
The theater was completely full with every hardcore AC fan in Salt Lake City in attendance. It was, for the most part, silent. I personally felt that Oddsac had moments of genius hilarity, but felt a little awkward laughing amidst worshipful patrons of the band. One fellow viewer slightly giggled at a scene where a family roasting marshmallows started being attacked/choking/burning from their gooey mallows. A few others let out a chuckle and a nervous tension in the crowd exited. Afterwards when Danny, Geologist and Deacon were doing the Q&A, things lightened up and Danny said something to the effect of- I feel that I have shared more emotions with you in the last hour than most films ever do. (That's not a direct quote, that's my two week old memory) I would agree. Art films, if you let them, have a way of taking hold of your soul and yanking it every which way. They are to be interpreted individually. I interpreted it as funny, hypnotic, at times energetic, at times, lulling. The music was a completely new evolution from previous work, as all Animal Collective tracks are. And even though those moments that I dub as "filler" in the movie lost me and left me a bit bored and wanting, the imaginative scenes made up for them and I left the theater happy and inspired.