Flatpicks no.2: Triumph of the Willy
The second of this year's Flatpicks, in which Mark Alex Preston (Ideal Skates) extols the virtues of Oh Willy... (dir: Emma de Swaef & Marc James Roels), screening as part of Natural Habitats next week:
What with your computers and your internet, the creation, dissemination and consumption of media has never been easier. This situation is marvellous. And shit. Sound and image bombard us via myriad seductive gadgets, eroding the senses, dulling the wonder. However, if you're fortunate enough to live in this city then enthusiasts exist to sort high fibre cultural wheat from the terabytes of chaff. Oh Willy... is fibre, dislodging this plaque of mediocrity we unconsciously accrue.
A FRIEND PROFFERS CYNICAL PLOT SYNOPSIS: 'Sad fat man made of wool goes into the woods to find a monster to replace dead mother (NOTE: there's no talking)'. Job done.
There's nothing tricksy or superfluous here, just a rare level of craft in both direction and execution that lifts this gentle hallucination into the sublime. The viewer is both confidante and voyeur as grieving Willy retreats into formative place and memory, cosseting bosom juxtaposed with whipping stick, the elemental wald, berg and fabeltier of folklore feared then embraced. I'm not here to ponder the mommy issues, I'm here to gush..
Whether you are schooled or have merely idled away an hour crudely animating a stick man's traverse of a paperback you cannot fail to be agog at the sheer analogue intricacy and detail. The sets are immaculate, the sound design is sparse and highly effective, the lighting is on par with the finest cinema. Night envelopes, warm sun streams through diaphanous curtains, slices through the canopy, blinds on the mountaintop. The illusion is utterly beautiful. Deftly rendered details abound, locks barely agitated by the breeze, animals scattering for cover, a consoling final meeting of hands.
Hey! I love simplicity as much as the next child of the late 20th C. but sometimes you just need to viddy some sheer artistic graft up on the screen and by christ 'Oh Willy..' delivers. Fittingly, the film's coda is soundtracked by a prelude and as Willy (apron strings scythed yet still infantilised) ascends a sheer peak and surveys his new existence in the embrace of his anthropoid surrogate mum I double dare your grubby soul not to shed a little tear of brilliance.