DVD Review - Idiots and Angels

Bill Plympton's Idiots and Angels stands in stark contrast to the major animated films released this year. It's not a huge, CGI-creation that's trying to produce environments or characters that are hyper-realistic or as close to simulating actual live people, places or things. Plympton is going for fantasy. He's going for surreal. Plympton's dreamscape is bizarre and beautiful.

The plot involves a nameless man who frequents a very seedy bar. This man is perhaps very seedy himself. Things get really strange when he notices one day that wings are growing out of his back. They're not just wings. They're wings with a mind of their own. He may be a bad man who wants to do bad things but his newfound wings are going to make him good in spite of himself.

Like the recent, Oscar-nominated Sylvain Chomet films, this animated tale is told exclusively without dialogue. The tale is mostly one of redemption. At a basic level, it's a dark exploration of human fantasy and desire. It's also basic animation. It's not computer-aided like Pixar. It's pencil drawings. It's not a palette of millions of colors, but the colors Plympton does use are striking.

From beginning to end, Plympton's film is like moving art, amazingly hand-rendered and imaginatively fused together. Scenes blend and even individual shots blend together so seamlessly, so creatively. One such example is when the protagonist is shaving at the sink. The water stream from the faucet morphs into a stream of milk coming from a carton pouring into a cereal bowl. A hand holding a spoon about to eat breakfast morphs into that same hand holding a car key starting the ignition.

The morphing isn't simple dissolves as would occur in a live action flick. The morphing is exactly that with camera angles that flip and move, but that's just icing on a cake that is filled with a lot of visual tastiness. Tastiness is probably not the best word to describe all the visuals here though.

Some are things that are perhaps only achievable through animation like a perfect reflection of a man in the liquid of a glass from which he's drinking from his point-of-view while he's drinking it. Some are things so deliciously dark and adult as to have no place in a Pixar film like a naked man's ass, or the almost rape of a woman.

Some things are wondrously fantastic. Plympton has a butterfly chained up, a bar drunk who wraps himself like a snake around a dancer, a man who sprouts wings from his stomach, and another who rolls a tear back into his own eye. There's much more. Plympton never runs out of interesting and strange things to put on the screen, things you've never seen nor are likely to see again.

Five Stars out of Five.
Not Rated But for 14 and Up.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 18 mins.


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