The title, Never Like the First Time! refers to just what you'd expect—losing your virginity. Back in 2006, acclaimed artist Jonas Odell animated four true stories on the subject of popping cherries, which were recorded in 2002 by his colleague Benjamin Wolff. The loss of one’s virginity is universally considered a milestone moment in people’s lives, one that Odell manages to convey with range and depth. There's the standard stuff like boning at a party or the methodical succession of heavy petting to finally knocking boots. Then there's the more troubling sex that involves peer pressure and abuse. Each interview is recreated with an animation style that suits its tone and serves its story, which makes each piece feel singular. However, when you see all of the stories together, you walk away with a powerful sentiment you wouldn't get if you just saw one by itself.
While watching the film I can’t help but reflect on my own experience crossing that seminal finish line. My story is pretty typical, although I had to wait until I was 18. It wasn’t that I was afraid of pussy, I just was one. There were many missed opportunities that will forever stick in my mind as mistakes, but in the end, I lost it to a girl I thought I loved. That was a lesson in itself—discovering that my dick can make big decisions without consulting me. Regardless, we were both virgins and wildly unprepared for the deed. I pawed her breasts and she poked my penis, things went this way and that and I came in the condom quickly. Emotions got heavy and we thought our relationship was redefined. I realized that things are very rarely about the actual moment, but more about the memories created. We rely on our memories to shape each future decision and action, but as emotional creatures we know they shouldn’t ever be fully trusted. But what else do we have? Without memories we are destined to make the same mistakes over and over. I’ve pined over lovers who were wrong for me, but after we split I could only remember the good stuff or vice versa. Odell’s film is as much about getting laid for the first time as it is about recalling yourself, your feelings, and who you were at a specific point in time. None of us are the same as we were when we lost our “purity,” but none of us could be and that’s something to remember. It’s never going to be your first time again. Each day is new and there are always more firsts to be had, plus great seconds, thirds, fourths, and fifths.
Never Like the First Time! was Jonas Odell’s first animated documentary. He made the film back in 2006, where it won the Golden Bear Award for best short subject at the Berlinale Film Festival, as well as a Guldbagge in Sweden, and other prizes He followed up the film with the equally successful short animated doc Lies in 2008. Both before and after these forays into non-fiction he has been animating fiction shorts, commercials, and music videos, even getting a Grammy nomination and winning an MTV Music Award for the Franz Ferdinand's "Take Me Out" video.
I wanted to know how one decides to make a project about losing your virginity, without including your own tale of getting a piece of tail. Jonas was nice enough to answer.
VICE: How did this project come to you?
Jonas Odell: I felt for a while that a lot of animation was becoming quite self-referential, at best referencing other films, at worst referencing other animated films. Doing something based on real people's personal stories felt almost like opening up a window to let some air in. I was also interested in how several stories on the same subject add up to something more than just the sum of the parts when put next to each other, so I wanted to let a group of people each tell the story of the same event in their respective lives.
How many interviews did you have to go through before you found the final four?
About 30 interviews were made in total, and then we went back to do additional interviews with some of the people who we felt might work in the film. The final selection was done based on which stories we felt might work best together and complement each other.
There are an infinite number of cherry-popping stories, why did these four stick out to you?
We really picked stories based on whether we thought we could do them justice in the film. All the stories people told are of course worth retelling, so the selection wasn't about the quality of the stories. Rather, it was about the balance in the film and about what we thought we could do with the stories.
How did you develop the style of animation for each interview?
I knew early on in the process that I wanted the style of each story to come out of the mood of the story itself, rather than to predefine the style of the film. We used a mix of live action and animation in a couple of the stories where we felt the motion of real people rather than animated ones would provide the right feeling for what we wanted.
What are you working on now?
Apart from commercials and music videos, there is another short based on interviews in production.
Any plans to ever make a feature?
I have one project that we are trying to get financed at the moment. No animation in it, though.
Thanks Jonas and good luck.
Jeffrey Bowers is a tall mustached guy from Ohio who's seen too many weird movies. He currently lives in Brooklyn, working as an art and film curator. He is a programmer at the Hamptons International Film Festival and screens for the Tribeca Film Festival. He also self-publishes a super fancy mixed-media art serial called PRISM index.
Previously - I'm Short, Not Stupid Presents: 'Madame Tutli Putli'