Films: Consuming Spirits

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Consuming Spirits

Consuming Spirits

USA, 2012, 134 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subject: Americana
Program: New Directors Showcase
Language: English

DIRECTOR: Chris Sullivan
Producer: Chris Sullivan
Editor: Chris Sullivan
Screenwriter: Chris Sullivan
Cinematographer: Chris Sullivan
Principal Cast: Robert Levy, Nancy Andrews, Chris Sullivan

It took experimental filmmaker Chris Sullivan nearly 15 years to complete Consuming Spirits, a meticulously crafted film shot frame by frame with collage, cutout, pencil drawing, and stop-motion animation. The oddly drawn characters live in Gardener’s Corners, a dark and dysfunctional Appalachian town. Sullivan’s three protagonists—Gentian Violet, a bus-driving journalist; Earl Gray, a radio talk-show host; and Victor Blue, a meek newspaperman—share dark secrets from their pasts as well as their daily lives.

When Gentian kills a nun with her bus and covers up the crime, she sets into motion a series of events that eventually connect the three characters in a carefully plotted story line. She and Victor moonlight as a musical duet, but they spend their days reporting for the town’s only newspaper, The Daily Suggester. Earl writes a column for the paper, too, but the words he speaks on the radio far surpass his printed output for sheer sensationalism. Earl couches his cynical commentary about the townsfolk in a series of not-so-practical gardening tips. Scenes in the Juice of the Barley Bar find mild-mannered Victor drinking himself to death as he searches for his long-lost father. In the Holy Angels Sanitarium, gun-toting nuns impersonate the patients, blurring the line between sanity and insanity.

Sullivan wrote, directed, drew, photographed, recorded, and even provided some voice-over for Consuming Spirits. He alternates the physical size of his animated characters to inflate and deflate them psychologically. As their mouths jerk open and closed, ghosts and nightmares move in the background to remind them of their crimes. Melancholy music by The Islands of Langerhans enhances the film’s dark tone. Consuming Spirits is a haunting ride for all who take the trip.


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