I saw Plympton’s Hair High a few years ago at a previous MIFF, and was less than impressed. Idiots and Angels, however, is much better.
Part of this would have to do with the animation itself. Though I think we were watching it in the wrong aspect ratio (don’t get me started…), the art on display is beautiful. Featuring a marvellously drab colour palette, the film is truly stunning to see on the big screen. It’s only with such auteur-driven animation pieces that we can truly see all the possibilities of animation – Idiots and Angels is jerky and somewhat primitive in comparison to the cartoons with which we’re familiar, but it’s so much more powerful.
The story is rather allegorical, and the complete lack of dialogue pushes the themes to the fore. Characters laugh, grunt and cry, but never utter a word, and this makes for a very pure kind of storytelling. The central character, known as Angel, is a grumpy, obnoxious man whose day seems to be completely composed of revelling in his own misery, whilst at the same time making everyone around him miserable. The surroundings aren’t shown literally through his eyes, but it’s clear that we’re seeing his version of the world – hence the dull browns, greys and blacks. Cars spout out viscous smoke that trails behind them long after they’re gone, and a songbird greets every dawn with a harsh, grating shrill, rather than a cheery song. Must to his chagrin, though, Angel is sprouting a pair of wings. They seem to have a mind of their own, and more importantly hold a completely different set of morals.
It’s fun to see a man literally wrestling with his conscience, and it’s because the film has much loftier aspirations that I preferred it to Hair High. The soundtrack is great, featuring instrumentals alongside the likes of Tom Waits. The film feels a little overlong, like it was padded out to feature length.
I can’t imagine Plympton’s films ever generate much money, but he is a truly brilliant animator. He and his team have created a wonderful world that exaggerates both the good and the bad in our own. Highly recommended.Rating: