Thursday, March 18, 2010

Film and Music: Oddsac

I saw "Oddsac" last night at a special Chicago screening. I am writing this the following day with a complicated predicament on my hands. The Arts Section is about recommendation and positive reviews, but even after I've given the film hours to sink in and digest itself, I'm still not exactly sure what it is I witnessed.

"Oddsac" is the product of around four years of collaboration between experimental indie band Animal Collective and video artist/director Danny Perez. The band has described the project as a visual album, meaning the sounds and visuals are equally important and completely rely on each other. For this reason, there will be no soundtrack of the film released independently of the visuals. This is where it gets tricky to talk about "Oddsac". This was an undoubtably tough project to undertake, but nevertheless, the difficulty in making the film should not dictate its success. So here's the big question: Does "Oddsac" work? For the most part, yes.

The biggest issue is that "Oddsac" isn't as consistent as it should be. When Perez opts for cinematic visuals with characters and scenarios, the film is an impressive and pretty amazing thing to experience. The visuals are intriguing, thought provoking, and imply some sort of narrative while interacting seamlessly with the music. When Perez throws minutes straight of swirling colors and flashing messes of light at you (and it happens a lot) it just isn't interesting. I understand that the tone is meant to be abrasive. I understand that they might not want me to enjoy looking at some of it. I'm ok with that, and I agree that intentional displeasure can send a powerful message, but it has to be worth it. I hate to say it, but these parts were a frustrating waste of time that could have been spent developing the overall theme in a more productive way.

But...
Let's talk about the good stuff because there was a lot of it!

The music is huge. The majority of the soundtrack was recorded and written between the time when Animal Collective released "Strawberry Jam" and the close-to-flawless "Merriweather Post Pavilion". Because of this, much of the music was backed by "Merriweather"-esque electronic bass and beats while also showing off some of the guitar driven style from "Strawberry Jam". A song sung by Panda Bear (Noah Lennox) was paired with visuals of a vampire paddling a canoe at night. That scene alone made "Oddsac" worth watching. The grand finale was also pretty fantastic. The song was rather dark but danceable and was accompanied by visuals of some kind of freaky food fight with a monster.

I've tried to be vague about the content of "Oddsac" while still giving an opinion because I think it is best to see it without knowing too much. It is definitely eccentric with lots of weird surprises, and I want anyone who sees it to be as caught off guard as I was. It is important to point out that while it is far from perfect, "Oddsac" is worth seeing. Animal Collective fans will love the music, and some of the visuals are pretty stunning. It's probably going to confuse you and your brain might hurt afterwards, but its only an hour. Just roll with it!

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