DIRECTED BY: Brad Glanden
FEATURING: Brad Glanden
PLOT: Told almost entirely through stills, this is the story of a struggling filmmaker who tries to get a musical romance made in an alternate world where movie producers are only interested in 7-hour-long abstract films about feet.
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Too short and light, but it’s a promising debut film.
COMMENTS: Theodore of the Absurd takes its inspiration from Robert Downey Sr.’s Chafed Elbows, both in form (a narrated series of black and white stills) and tone (comedy as done by the Marx Brothers, if they’d been beatniks). Even the title of a story-within-the-story (“Clammy Ankles”) alludes to this influence. Fortunately, the majority of the jokes seem like the could have come out of one of Downey’s early scripts, too, although they do tend more towards literary puns (“I’m sorry I let my avant-garde down”) than Sr.-style non-sequiturs. The movie’s central gag is a world where experimental and mainstream tastes have been inverted, so director protagonist Theodore can’t get anyone to back his romantic musical because they are confounded by the concept that it has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Theodore eventually falls in with underground Bohemians who dabble in representationalism, but he boots his big chance to impress the hipsters when he includes a Stan Brakhage scratch-on-the-film montage in his narrative film, leading to charges of conformism. Theodore follows its own artistic path, lobbing satirical bombs at both popular art and the avant-garde. The movie argues that the artist who deliberately tailors his work to fit the expectations of edgy elitists isn’t any more genuine than the sell-out who panders to popular tastes. There are also several songs, which aren’t exactly showtune quality but are amusing. A ditty about two sickly lovers who find each other contains the lyric, “She was a girl with acute sinusitis/He was a boy who had chronic fatigue/He wasn’t bothered by her gingivitis/She didn’t mind his venereal disease.” We think Theodore is a worthy tribute to Downey Sr.’s legacy; you can judge for yourself, as we’ve embedded the film on the page above (it’s only thirty minutes long).
Theodore of the Absurd is Glanden’s MFA Thesis Project. The movie has its own website that includes commercial parodies that didn’t make it into the film and a couple of well-thought-out academic essays about the avant-garde.
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