Descore, Sep04 @ ACMI


Descore : Animators & Composers
Sep 16th 2004, ACMI, Melbourne.
Curated By Phil Brophy
Animation Review for Real-Time magazine.

The steps beneath a Mozart statue are no more musical than those at ACMI, when grinded on by a large skateboarding rabbit. Especially when multi-tracked alongside the floppy beats on the rabbit’s headphones. And yet, decidely unmusical is often the sound, when an ACMI audience lamentedly, dementedly shuffles down the steps after enduring yet another short film compilation of technically competent demo-reels, and punchline drunk half-bakers. It’s symptomatic of most short-film festivals and compilations though, not just those at ACMI. Thankfully Descore spotlighted a few gems amongst the ho-hummery.

Sustaining that glum note for just a little longer, let’s just say while Descore’s initiative to link together Melbourne animators and sound composers to explore audiovisual possibility is to be applauded, and while some of the shorts were great, the collection as a whole falls kind of flat when judged against it’s own ambition: ‘..surround sound experiments in audiovision’. Overall, Descore lacked experimentation and audio-visual inter-playfulness – especially knowing the composers and animators were commissioned to explore together. At times it felt like the animators were merely handed a soundtrack and asked to add visual wallpaper on top 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 cinema that emerged as the fruits of juicy collaboration, rather than merely the addition of two parts. That out of the way, the gems that were, dazzled and seduced. Tickled, transported, provoked.

Long-time domestic fetishist, Ian Haig, brought some of Descore’s biggest (sometimes awkward) laughs with his zapping of life into a range of eroticised kitchen applicances – a stroboscopic click and purr version of ‘I Was Made for Loving You’. Amidst the whirr and stutter of these ‘devices’, we are swiftly cut or zoomed to the gyrating and protuding or ‘inviting’ details of Haig’s clean plastic sculptures. The avalanche of sex and turbo-gadgetry had most in convulsions, 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 perculating to the logical climax of music peppered with female moans : house music. As cartoon as it sounds, it was also one of the better milkings of the ACMI surround sound system.

Fuck The Vampires. Gothic Politic. Duck My Punchline. Feasibly zapped from the large nimble SMS thumbs of Emile Zile, straight to the screen, ‘Young Adult Thinks’ presents a series of witty and emotive narrative fragments, framed by graphics and Zile’s near trademark sloganeering. Sound is employed laterally throughout and in an evocative manner by Patrick Donlon ( DJ Spacey Space ) from watery sounds as a girl blows out flames through to cheesy synths that Chaplin woulda loved for the piece’s more gameshow moments. Capping it nicely though, is the use of silence and the unrelenting close-up focus on the breath of Old Man Zile ( hello Konstantin ) to create an intensely personal and electric finish.

‘Devil’s Eyes’ in sharp contrast, hurls over-cute pixelated japanimation with unexpected force, in unexpected directions, and a crackling soundtrack by Cornel Wilczeck ( Qua ) manages to add atmosphere and emotive weight to each scene. Directed by Paul Robertson, the clip unfolds and is composited like a fiendish gamer fairytale – where the ultra-cuddlies vomit vast rivers of blood, engage in vigorous disembowelling and eat entire planets. Captivation is in no small part due to Wilczeck’s beautiful treatment of the otherworldly story. Wistful moments are swept along by splicey reversish instrumentation in a tweaked folk manner reminiscent of The Books, and character movements and events are 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 evenings last clip and featuring possibly the night’s best interplay of sound and vision. ‘Skull N bone vector’ will be a software preset one day ( if it isn’t already ) but nonetheless Murray’s take on it charmed, with cartoony electronica bats swooping an array of digi_sound FX down onto a typical suburban haunted house. Inside the camera lurches over literal TV zombies in AC/DC shirts as guitar riffs chug. This eventually reveals the apparent sound source : the zombies are watching a guitarist on the television. Later this guitarplay is reversed, a close up of a wolf howling at the moon outside, set against the sound of a wailing guitar solo. A red car dropping from the sky brings with it not just a layer of sound, but a shift to more urban beats. Similarly bats flying over the drums change the sound, and lightning is built into the song structure as a sonic element, providing a more engaging and layered viewing experience than many of the clips.

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