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Sounding out animation

Jean Poole

Phip Murray, Philip Brophy, WE GOTTA GET OUT OF THIS PLACE Phip Murray, Philip Brophy, WE GOTTA GET OUT OF THIS PLACE
The sound of an ACMI audience shuffling down the steps after enduring yet another short film compilation of technically competent demo-reels, and punchline-drunk half-bakers is decidedly unmusical. Thankfully Descore2 spotlighted a few gems amongst the ho-hummery.

Sustaining a glum note for just a little longer, while some of the shorts were great and Descore2’s aim to link Melbourne animators and sound composers in an exploration of audiovisual possibilities is to be applauded, the collection as a whole fell flat when judged against its stated ambition to create “surround sound experiments in audiovision.” Overall, Descore2 lacked experimentation and audio-visual inter-playfulness, especially considering the composers and animators were commissioned to explore these together. At times it felt like the animators were merely handed a soundtrack and asked to add visual wallpaper video-clip style, or the composers were fed an animation and asked to add mood music and sound effects. For the most part it was difficult to see and hear the cinema that emerged as the fruits of juicy collaboration. Having said that, the gems dazzled.

Long-time domestic fetishist Ian Haig brought some of Descore2’s biggest (and sometimes most awkward) laughs with his zapping to life of a range of eroticised kitchen appliances in a stroboscopic click and purr version of I Was Made for Loving You. Amidst the whirr and stutter of these devices, the film swiftly cut and zoomed to the gyrating and protruding details of Haig’s clean plastic sculptures. The avalanche of sex and turbo-gadgetry had most of the audience convulsing, and more than once a viewer near me burst out laughing, then abruptly covered their mouth. The apt soundtrack for this flashy celebration of vibrating Tupperware genitalia was delivered by Nat Bates with spirited jittery machinations, gradually percolating to a climax of music peppered with female moans; house music indeed. It was also one of the better uses of the ACMI surround sound system.

Young Adult Thinks presented a series of witty and emotive narrative fragments framed by graphics and director Emile Zile’s trademark sloganeering. ‘Fuck The Vampires.’ ‘Gothic Politic.’ ‘Duck My Punchline.’ Intertitles possibly zapped straight from the mobile phone of director and SMS ‘poet’ Zile. Sound was employed laterally and evocatively throughout by Patrick Donlon (DJ Spacey Space) from watery sounds as a girl blows out flames to cheesy synths for the piece’s more game show moments. Capping it nicely was the use of silence and the unrelenting close-up focus on the breath of Old Man Zile to create an intensely personal and electric finish.

In sharp contrast, Devil’s Eyes hurled over-cute pixelated Japanese-style animation in unexpected directions with a crackling soundtrack by Cornel Wilczeck (Qua) adding atmosphere and emotive weight. Directed by Paul Robertson, the clip was composited like some fiendish gamer fairytale where the ultra-cuddlies vomited vast rivers of blood, engaged in vigorous disembowellings and ate entire planets. Wistful moments were swept along by spliced and reversed instrumentation in a tweaked folk manner reminiscent of The Books. Character movements and events were heightened by game-like twinkles and bleepy flourishes. Quite a stunner.

Philip Brophy did the sound and Phip Murray the animation in WE GOTTA GET OUT OF THIS PLACE, appropriately the evening’s last clip and possibly the night’s best interplay of sound and vision. The Skull N bone vector style will be a software preset one day (if it isn’t already) but Murray’s take on it charmed the audience with cartoony electronica bats bringing an array of digi-sound effects down onto a typical suburban haunted house. Inside, the camera lurched over literal TV zombies in AC/DC shirts as guitar riffs chugged. Eventually the sound source was revealed: the zombies were watching a guitarist on television. Later this guitar play was reversed, with a close up of a wolf howling at the moon set against the sound of a wailing guitar solo. A red car dropping from the sky brought not just a layer of sound but a shift to more urban beats. Similarly bats flying over the drums changed the sound, and lightning was built into the song as a sonic element, providing a more engaging and layered viewing experience than many of the other clips.

Descore2, curator Philip Brophy, ACMI, Melbourne Sept 16

RealTime issue #64 Dec-Jan 2004 pg. 46

© Jean Poole; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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