Consuming Spirits Screen 6 articles

Consuming Spirits


Consuming Spirits Poster
  • A genuine labor of love and fictional self-loathing, Sullivan’s animation style is undeniably compelling, whether he’s channeling Grant Wood’s paintings or Robert Crumb’s monochromatic sketches. But the interweaving stories of commercialized religion, rancid Americana and alcoholic wretches start wearing thin around the movie’s midpoint; by the end, the whole morose endeavor risks becoming downright threadbare.

  • Alternating with the Lilliputian appeal of Quay Brothers–type dioramas of miniature houses and toy vehicles, perhaps purposefully jejune drawings of a shared past reveal painful memories. Sans the heart-hollowed-out aura of CGI, mood-evoking images do linger, such as aging, down-hanging female breasts; it took only two drawn lines. But Consuming Spirits is overlong. A dystopian T.S. Eliot once said, "Humankind cannot bear too much reality," maybe even in a cartoon.

  • Understanding better the connections between the characters amplifies the poignance of some touching scenes we’ve already seen—and opens the door to an unexpectedly hopeful ending. But what draws us in first and lingers the longest is the tone that Sullivan creates with his grotesquely beautiful people, imperiled animals, doomed or destructive relationships, and soulful acoustic music.

  • Like Gus Van Sant's forthcoming Promised Land or the recent documentary Detropia, the subjects' lives are the direct product of their surroundings, a connection never explicitly ratified.

  • The film is something akin to the magical animation of Yuri Norstein--more cinematic than cartoonish. It often delivers surprising moments of translucence or a mystifying depth of field or a strange spot of light, which all seem to be more captured than constructed. It is also often ruthlessly funny and gruesome, deepening our look at these troubled characters as they attempt to deal with their individual tragedies and disappointments.

  • This is the rare animated feature whose subtext is as rich as its sensuality, even if the latter is so often fixated on the putrid. Sullivan's mature willingness to confront ugliness head-on while so fearlessly following the stray, inebriated thoughts of his characters makes Consuming Spirits not only a monstrous visual achievement, but one of the most uniquely humanistic animated features of all time.

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