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USA, 2008, 78 Minute Running Time
Programs: Contemporary World Cinema, Spotlight on AnimationLanguage: English
DIRECTOR: Bill Plympton
Producer: Biljana LabovicEditor: Kevin PalmerScreenwriter: Bill Plympton
Variety calls the cartoon noir Idiots and Angels “Bill Plympton’s best animated feature to date.” When we first meet the main character—a violent, oversexed misanthrope with no name—in his sleazy corner of a penciled-in world, he appears doomed. But Plympton (Hair High, SDFF 24; I Married a Strange Person, SDFF 21) propels this alcoholic loser toward metamorphosis on a grand scale.
Idiots and Angels’s opening bar scene features a cast of grotesque misfits. If the seedy establishment’s greedy proprietor, his sex-starved captive of a wife, and the town slut who relishes every sadistic exchange between them represent the norm, what possible good can come about here? But from the depths of Plympton’s dark interior comes a beam of light that takes allegorical shape as angel’s wings—which our antihero sprouts, much to his dismay, from his shoulder blades overnight. Following bloody but failed attempts to cut them off with a chainsaw, he embraces the wings, using them to his advantage. (He masters flight, for instance—only to moon airline passengers.) The barkeep, seeing dollar signs in his customer’s aberration, shoots him, steals the wings, and starts wreaking havoc on the neighborhood, airbombing other bars right out of business with hand grenades. Meanwhile, his wife, as a damsel in distress, becomes the object of the protagonist’s affections and rescue attempts—and the cause of his eventual salvation.
Though no Saturday morning cartoon, Idiots and Angels is, says Plympton, “one of the most fun feature films I’ve ever done.” Working without a script, he extensively storyboarded the film and added Tom Waits’s music to create a blackly comic mood. With a low budget, dreary palette, and not a word of dialogue, Plympton crafted what he calls an “intimate one-man film.”
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