Friday, January 8, 2010

Three And A Half Rooms

Poetry and animation share fundamental similarities. Both rely gesture, rhythm, and excel in short form.

The union of the two has produced many rewarding films, Bruce Alcock's "At the Quilte Hotel", Michael Sporn's "Hunting of the Snark", numerous films of Billy Collins' work ("The Dead", "Forgetfulness"), and Martha Colburn's chaotic interpretations from the 1990s immediately come to mind.

In making a film around Nobel Prize winning, Poet Laureate Joseph Brodsky relying on animation is a smart direction. The animated bits of Andrey Khrzhanovsky's "A Room And A Half" (running at The Film Forum for two weeks beginning January 20) are outstanding. But they are too few and the rest of the film is just a muddle.

An overlong muddle, clocking in at over two hours. Demonstrative of the Russian mania for bigness, I suppose. Cut this film in half -start by removing the unnecessary and disturbing framing device of the poet's imaginary return to his homeland -and it could be very good. Instead it rambles -in a bad way -and rolls on for more than 20 animation free minutes after the second or third you think "OK, this is really the end."

Brevity. That's what poetry is about.

Brevity. The film is structurally unsound.

The structural issues are further compounded by subtitling. This is a film, if there ever was a film, that would great benefit from dubbing.

The animation is beautiful. That's the one thing there's too little of.


Michael Sporn said...

My hopes dashed; my expectations realized. Thanks for the review.

Unknown said...

I don't know that I would characterize poems as being about brevity, is the Odyssey brief? I suppose your favorite poetic form must be the haiku. Perhaps it would be better to say that the best poems cut out the fat, are edited down to their essence...

roconnor said...

I was going to use the word "terse" which is more accurate, but more loaded.

Still, I would say that poetry is best as brief.

Epics have always been considered different from lyrical poetry (which what we generally consider).

Sure, there are long -meaning more than one sitting to read -poems which are great, just as there are movies which are great despite lasting over 2 and a half hours. For the most part, brevity really is the soul of wit.