Ryan [Special Edition DVD]
2005
Distributed by National Film Board of Canada, 1123 Broadway, Suite 307, New York, NY 10010; 800-542-2164
Produced by The National Film Board of Canada in association with Copper Heart Entertainment
Directed by Chris Landreth
DVD 
color, 13 min.
College - Adult


Highly Recommended
Film Studies, Animation
Alter Egos
2005
Distributed by National Film Board of Canada, 1123 Broadway, Suite 307, New York, NY 10010; 800-542-2164
Produced by The National Film Board of Canada in association with Copper Heart Entertainment
Directed by Laurence Greene
DVD
52 min.
College - Adult

Highly Recommended





Reviewed by Rebecca Adler, College of Staten Island, City University of New York



Ryan Larkin is/was a legendary filmmaker mentored at the National Film Board of Canada by the also legendary Norman McLaren. McLaren perfected an animation technique in which every frame of the film is hand painted, and his genius and influence are universally recognized. Working with the same technique, Larkin made a number of extraordinary, extraordinarily beautiful animated films in the 60s and early 70s – among them, Syrinx, Walking, and Street Musique, the last two nominated for Academy Awards. Is/was is an unfortunate verbal necessity, inasmuch as Larkin, succumbing to serious personal problems, resigned from the Film Board in 1978, never made another film, and ended up a Montreal street beggar, homeless and penniless but for the pennies passersby dropped – and still drop – into his outstretched hat. At age 62, he now lives in a downtown men’s shelter in that city and still begs. His story of poignantly tragic dimensions is the subject of Chris Landreth’s wholly remarkable fourteen minute animated documentary film Ryan. Employing among its techniques amazing computer-generated images of astonishing originality and power in the service of a style Landreth calls “psycho-realism,” Ryan, winner of the 2005 Academy Award for best animated short film, easily earns Landreth (after McLaren and Larkin in their respective generations) a place among the most imaginative film animators of his. The combination of emotionally wrenching interviews with Larkin himself as well as with a lover and with people who knew and worked with him, together with the uncannily charged animation, is profoundly moving. The film has to be seen.

On the present DVD, Ryan is coupled with a longer 52 minute documentary, Alter Egos, directed by Lawrence Green. It is a remarkable film as well. Alter Egos fleshes out Landreth’s short masterpiece. In it we learn a little more about Larkin, see him in his present everyday life, learn more about the problems that led to his crack-up (cocaine, alcohol), hear more interviews with people who knew him in the past and with some who see him now. We also learn a little more about Landreth (besides his being an animator himself, his mother’s alcoholism and early death may have been at the root of his passionate interest in Larkin). And in fact, despite the brilliant memorable animation in Ryan, the most moving, even terrifying moments on the DVD occur in Alter Egos, during the unembellished simply-shot sequence in which we see a close-up of Larkin’s face after Landreth has shown him his film for the first time. Larkin is stunned into speechlessness, tries to regain his composure, then says, a little later – Green’s film ends with these words – “I just want out of this picture!” (But it’s a little uncertain in the context which picture he wants out of. Ryan? Alter Egos? Both?) Earlier in Alter Egos we attended a meeting of the animators who worked with Landreth and question him about the ethical problems of making his film in the first place. Let the viewer, then, be forewarned about this moral/ethical dimension. If she or he can somehow rationalize it, Ryan and Alter Egos together comprise an unforgettable film experience – artistically, imaginatively, humanly.

This special edition DVD, in addition to other materials, contains three Larkin films - Syrinx, Walking, Street Musique and Landreth’s two films - The End, Bingo


Date Entered: 9/27/2005