When he met David Lynch after a screening of Eraserhead (in anticipation of producing The Elephant Man), Mel Brooks was shocked to come face to face with the then baby-faced efant terrible. He recalled “I could swear I was going meet some stooped over Bavarian coot with Borsch dribbling from his mouth.” You might expect the same after watching the fiercely misanthropic minimalist animation of Don Hertzfeldt but you’d encounter not only the youngest maker to be given the San Francisco International Film Festival’s Persistence of Vision Award, but an artist whose work has been in commercial distribution since he was he was in film school at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Real pencil drawings (not the pseudo-“squiggle vision” that you see applied as an after effect in many cartoons) distinguish Hertzfeldt from what is likely the last generation of animators to bother to take pencil to paper. The Academy Award nominated short filmmaker uses a cast of characters of near stick figures with a Charles Addams/Edward Gory inspired morbidity, peppered with visual non-sequiturs and screeching, nonsensical dialog to create sucker punch, hit and run one-liners that have been shown all over American cable, International film festivals and beyond.
His onstage interview and screening of his new absurdist film Life, Death and Very Large Utensils will take place at 7:30 pm, Friday, April 23 at the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas.