Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Steven Wilson's NOODLES ON MY BACK.

Invasion Creations

For me, this little film is pure joy: like watching Fred Astaire dancing on ashtray sand. It's so charming, so simple, so effortless, and so gosh-darn warm and friendly. With the exception of a flippant "what-the-hell"-- and even that isn't so bad-- it's the rare surrealist piece of web cinema that doesn't traffic in violence, sex, cruelty, and bodily functions.

Not that, mind you, I have much of a problem with any of those; it's just nice to come across something that's gently demented instead of demented demented. The non-sequiturs and bits of nonsense-- from the titular noodles, to his love of hopping and soda beverages, to the appearance of his doppelhippo-- are just delightful.

The film alternates the quick cuts and fast rhythm of each verse with long wide tracking shots that emphasize the repetitive, delightfully stupid chorus. This contrast is what really makes the film, I think, and there's something almost formally elegant about that first tracking shot, which gives us the hippo, adds the whistling ape, and then the humming, hovering bird. Each animal gets its own sound, its own layer added to the mix; in this way, the shot functions also as a foregrounding of the very process of audio mixing.

And no appreciation would be complete without mentioning Roy, the squeaky-voiced pig with the tiny legs and the giant head, and the delightful duet he sings with the hippo. Roy is not just another animal, not just back-up, but a secondary lead making his debut over halfway through this 113 second opus; note how the other animals momentarily disappear when Roy appears, only returning for the chorus, thus focusing our attention on the two leads and their relationship.

That relationship can be read, without much difficulty, as an imbalanced one. It's all there in the final exchange of dialogue, as Roy, a bit too earnestly, tells Hippo he hopes to see him again soon; Hippo starts to make a hasty-if-lumbering exit, which Roy awkwardly mimics, probably wishing he hadn't spoiled the moment.

I'm not (necessarily) implying that Roy's crush on Hippo is sexual in nature, because I think the world of Noodles On My Back is a profoundly asexual one. But if you've ever been the nervous, socially-awkward one who sometimes desperately sought the attention of someone cool (meaning, in this case, both superlative and relaxed), and, having received it, said something a little too earnest and true, you know what the rest of Roy's evening is going to feel like.

The film, then, has a twinge, if only a twinge, of sadness-- just a little drop of agony in its bright blue boundless ocean of joy. That little drop is enough, I think, to deepen its hue, to make it more than a piece of mere electronic ephemera.

(Plus, it's just lots of good, clean fun.)

1 comment:

Bill P. Godfrey said...

I had a website with an 'animated short of the week' feature. This was one of my favourites. Good to watch it again.