Barry Doupé Review

Strangely Touching
Vancouver animator Barry Doupé succeeds at making experimental films that are not only watchable but also incredibly enjoyable

“This work is not for the cinematically lazy,” proudly proclaims Clint Enns, curator of Language Formed in Light. (He also told me that I should quote him on that, so I am.) The work in question is that of Vancouver animator Barry Doupé, whose feature-length animation Ponytail screened at Plastic Paper Festival of Animation in Winnipeg in 2010. Three of Doupé’s short works — Thalé, Distraught Mother Reunites with Her Children and At the Heart of a Sparrow — plus an eight minute excerpt from his newest feature made up the final screening in the series, which proposed to focus on innovations to the form (or language) of cinema by a new generation of filmmakers.

The selected videos span the development of Doupé’s unique practice, primarily using fractured 3D graphics and non-linear narratives, from 2005 to the present. Everything in Doupé’s work is alienating — the choppily modelled forms, the unnatural movement of the characters, the achingly slow pacing, the computerized voices and the disjoined stories. His broken aesthetic is simply a manifestation of the inner turmoil of the characters that inhabit his cinematic worlds — characters filled with hopelessness, danger, unnameable tragedy and no escape.

Doupé accomplishes something astounding: he makes experimental films with non-linear narratives that aren’t only watchable, but gripping. In part, this is due to the insightful dialogue; for example, a character in At The Heart of a Sparrow says of his wild horse-turned-pet: “He learned that there is more contentment in ordered life than there is in running wild.” They are words you can turn over and over in your mind, reflecting not only on what they reveal about the characters onscreen, but how they might apply to your own life— so it doesn’t matter that the onscreen narrative only inches along.

Doupé told me that he keeps an archive of interesting things that he draws upon for his animations. What emerges is a complicated and touching collage of cited dialogue, images, moods and plot trajectories. Conceptual approaches to montage over the years have been concerned with the nature of mainstream media — its slickness, its speed, its ubiquity. Lifted sources are slowed down for deep contemplation, as opposed to mere absorption, in Doupé’s hands.

Sometimes the pace is meditative, as in Doupé’s 2009 video, Thalé. A series of glowing, computer-generated plants slowly revolve to the whining groan of a tiny motor and a menacingly retro synthesizer soundtrack. Flowers are sexual and sometimes killers; Thalé, with its pendulous sacks and gleaming spikes, serenely suggests both.

Languid yet bewildering are the multiple scene changes and animation approaches in 2005’s At The Heart of a Sparrow. Doupé experimented with various animation techniques, appropriating and messing with worlds from the online game Digispace Traveller and building his own. Each vignette of futility uses a different technique that Doupé claims is an attempt to make viewers forget what came before. This cinematic forgetting is the balm for the relentless onscreen trauma.

Doupé’s worlds are touchingly strange and strangely touching.

– Sandee Moore in Uptown Magazine on August 23

~ by cineflyer on August 26, 2011.

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