Saturday, November 17, 2012

The "if"

This past Wednesday, Sharon and I made our way to Kings Cross and boarded the 10:35 to Leeds.
Kevin Schreck had organized some complementary tickets for "Persistence of Vision" which was part of the "Leeds International Film Festival" program, and as we had never been to Leeds, this seemed like an excellent excuse.
Leeds is nice by the way, if anyone fancies going.
The film was playing in the town hall, which in itself is worth the price of admission.

We met up with Brent Odell and Claire Wright (Backgrounds).
Claire did not take part in the film, but happens to live in Leeds and found out via facebook.

I was slightly apprehensive about the movie, not because I doubted it would be interesting, but because I was interviewed for it 2 years ago and just wondered what sort of nonsense I may have spouted.

For anyone who knows little about the Thief, this must be a real mind blower.
For starters it is a competent introduction to the general work of Richard Williams, spending the first hour concentrating on the rise of his business in London, commercial work and finally his involvement in "Who framed Roger Rabbit".
Interwoven in all this is the tale of Dick and the two Shahs, the development of the Nasrudin illustrations and their transition into the film medium.
All this is peppered with soundbites from Ramon Modiano, Richard Burdett, John Culhane and Howard Blake, recounting their time in the studio long long before any of us arrived for the final sprint.

When the film kicks into "Thief" gear, the ark of : "takeoff, flight and crash" becomes palpable, and even though you know the outcome, you still find yourself rooting for the filmmaker.

Both sides of the struggle between artist and financier are told by people who themselves had no stake in the affair, so instead of trying to find out who was to blame for the crash, it points out the basic incompatibility between the investors and the guy with the vision.
And while I fully understand that Mr Williams did not want to talk about it, and though it would have been interesting to hear his angle, I think it has not really been to the detriment of this documentary.

Dick certainly comes out smelling of roses. After all who would have wanted to see a film about a financially successful artistic compromise.

The end of the movie concentrates on what the "Thief" turned into and the influences, the material had on Disney's "Aladdin".
Some amusing comparisons.

What struck me was the footage of the impromptu wrap party, that happened when the "Completion Bond Company" closed down production.
Because I left the film some 2 month prior, I was not there and seeing the lost look on Roy Nesbitts face when the camera inadvertently catches his eye sent shiver down my spine.

Kevin Schreck said, that he had a lifelong fascination with the "Thief".
Lifelong indeed, when Dick signed the production deal with WB in 1988 Mr. Schreck presumably wasn't yet born.

To sum it up, "Persistence of Vision" is a love letter to the stamina and artistry of an animation icon, and without any attempt at sycophancy and saccharine coating, rings true about the creative struggle facing people with real ideas in a "big money industry".
There is even a touching moment when one of the Nasrudin stories is told to emphasize a particular point.

I hope it gets a wider release, if copyright issues will or can ever be resolved.

And if it plays at a festival near you... go see it.

And if you have, and if you have listened to Chris Knott, you'll understand the title of this Blog post.




Christopher Sobieniak said...

"Kevin Schreck said, that he had a lifelong fascination with the "Thief".
Lifelong indeed, when Dick signed the production deal with WB in 1988 Mr. Schreck presumably wasn't yet born."

At that time I would've been 10 or 11, by the time the 'finished' version of The Thief was released I was already in high school and was into that stage where I wasn't going to animated movies much at all since I thought I should've grown past that stage in my life, I was so wrong! Still it was for the best I found out later about it anyway.

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