Using found clippings of French novels, hotel business cards, old show flyers, bits of his stamp collection, and a whole lot of pasteled, goached, and watercolored paintings, animator Jeff Scher makes sweet, sweet love on screen. The coyly titled Cunning Stunts is a pretty straightforward, very NSFW little film.
After finding a bunch of old hardcore, 8mm porno films, he selected a jazzy highlight reel depicting the deed from beginning to ejaculation. The sexual content elicits some of the best results from Scher’s rapidfire rotoscope technique, where he projects images onto paper and paints over them, making 15 paintings for every second. The colors and gestures of his painted flesh bounce and melt into each other making the penetration and cum shots much more provocative, while still sensual. Shay Lynch, who has provided Scher with musical scores for the last 20 years, goes for a bouncy and playful tune, making the film all the more invigorating. It’s kind of like a quickie in the bathroom or the woods, slightly scandalous and even better for being so. And at two minutes, it lasts just as long.
Jeff Scher has been making films for over 30 years and mostly utilizes a rich animation style that disarms and charms you with its frenetic movement and visual beauty—it’s like blinking as quickly as you can until your brain starts to buzz. Each frame has a different feel, mood, color, texture, and shape, but they are all hinged on a few recognizable objects and outlines that inhabit the space and morph with the music. Scher’s films explore emotions or nostalgia or life or whatever, but they pulse with energy and capture something inexplicable. You could call this film sensual, sexy, minor, pretty, perverse, badass, or a million other adjectives. But whatever you may think, a good fuck is always fun.
Jeff Scher is a painter, animator, and filmmaker living in Brooklyn, New York. He has been making films since the early 80s and has seen his work land in the permanent collection of numerous museums, including the Museum of Modern Art. He creates films for the New York Times Opinionator section, has done a music video for Bob Dylan, teaches at SVA and NYU Tisch School of the Arts, and his films have been screened at countless film festivals around the world. You can learn more about Jeff on his website. I asked him a few questions about Cunning Stunts.
VICE: You've always spent your time taking the audience on an emotional journey, what made you want to take them on a sexual one?
Jeff: While it's true that I try to make films with emotion engines, you could also say that they all explore specific aspects of the panorama of human life. In that sense exploring sexual imagery is a continuance of that exploration. One of the fascinating things about human sexuality is that it is so persistent. It flavors every encounter in one way or another and our fascination with it is one of our defining characteristics as a species. You could also say that lust is a primary human emotion, so in that sense it fits right in with my other films. What makes it different is not the subject of the film itself, but our societies mixed attitudes towards the subject.
What was the initial reaction to the film when it was first released?
This film was originally made for a show in a Chelsea gallery. It ran on a loop in a back room with the drawings lining the walls. Responses varied from rushing out of the room blushing beet red to a couple that watched it for hours and had to be evicted at closing time.
What was your research like in order to find the source images for your rotoscoping?
I had a suitcase full of 8mm porn given to me by a Detroit theater owner who was the grandfather of a friend. A lot of it was profoundly nasty. I didn't use the nasty nasty stuff.
Did you have different intentions with this film compared to your New York Times films or did you have a different reaction upon completing it?
The film really isn't that much different than the films I've made for the Times. It's a montage that celebrates/investigates a human activity. It was sad to finish because it was fun to paint. It's also a bit of a sequel to a film I made years earlier with Cecily Brown called Four Letter Heaven, and of course I also made the title sequence for the HBO series Real Sex, which had a similar theme and effect, but was much more tame.
What are you working on now?
I just finished a music video for the band American Royalty, and am shooting a live action film about the "ballet" of trains in subway tunnels in New York City.
Previously - I'm Short, Not Stupid Presents: 'Protect You + Me'