Welcome to "I'm Short, Not Stupid," a weekly column focused on highlighting rare and obscure short films. Enjoy this flick (the video is towards the bottom) and check back next week for another peculiar adventure in the art of short moving pictures.
Don’t you hate it when you come home to find your house burgled and the first thing your husband does is blame you and punch you in the face? I mean, yes, we tend to blame the victim, who makes the dumb decision of shacking up with a man who treats her like a punching bag. However, that doesn’t excuse the bad behavior of the hitter. He’s probably got his own masculinity issues and other bullshit making him a terrible person. But some people get to a point where they’re just bad. If you’re going to live with a guy who comes home yelling and swinging at you, taking away the only things that ever mattered to you, you'd think there would come a point where you'd snap and fuck that motherfucker up.
As his thesis film, Gil Kenan tackled the emotional and psychological aspects of this kind of deteriorating relationship in The Lark. It’s a simple story: man meets woman, woman falls in love (?), they get married, man takes advantage, woman puts up with it, man goes too far, and woman finally snaps. Where The Lark really achieves its singularity is through camp acting and a wildly imaginative visual palette. Every frame of the film is hand-composited, blending stop-motion, live-action, and claymation into a surreal black and white tale of woe.
Kenan constructs The Lark’s entire environment from scratch, building up the house wall-by-wall and window-by-window. Each piece moves with its own internal logic and emphasizes the uneasiness that is overtaking the house and its inhabitants. After the burglary and beating, the woman sits, as any tortured housewife might do, by the window of the crime. A a bird appears in the window and brings hope once more to the woman, which is captured in a spectacular stop-motion silhouette sequence. The husband immediately scolds his wife and kills the bird. Distraught, the woman weeps for the bird, wanting to transform this moment of grief and then, suddenly, the bird is alive again. It becomes her own private martyr and obsession—she tends to the bird, fending off her husband. The bird grows in her mind and soon grows in real life. The bird consumes her world. When the bird reaches a full, six-foot-tall maturity, she already knows who/what she picks. Her husband must pay for his sins. All of the little moments that follow between the bird, the husband, and her stand up as an extremely well told, rethought, and reformed fable of tragedy.
Gil Kenan is one of the few Hollywood fairytale stories. At the only screening of Kenan’s 2004 UCLA Senior Thesis film The Lark, a young agent spotted the short and sent it to his boss, which soon found its way into the lap of Robert Zemeckis. He loved the film and showed it to his producing partner Steven Spielberg. The animation and the house are as much characters in the film as the couple, which is probably what spurred the two to give Kenan the directing reins on their newest animated feature, Monster House. The movie is awesome and still one of my favorite animated features. Also, the film was written by Community creator, Dan Harmon, which is cool. In 2008, Kenan directed City of Ember. Now, he’s slated to remake Poltergeist next year. That, I am looking forward to. If you need more Gil in your life right now, you can check out VICE’s video interview with him below.
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: 'KNIFE'