Commentary &Independent Animation 11 Dec 2012 07:20 am

Consuming Spirits

- Consuming Spirits has to be the most original animated feature done to date. It’s a project that obviously consumed and developed in the mind of Chris Sullivan these past fifteen years, He undoubtedly allowed the story to grow in all the time that it took him to make the movie and then had to work the jigsaw puzzle of an edit to pull all the pieces together. The story is probably the most unique aspect in the film, an existentialist development with the characters growing in and out of each other, developing because of freak accidents other characters have had and moving the story along because of the odd relationships they have one to the other. It’s an epic piece ____________ChrisSullivan
of writing told in the most personal way imaginable. There’s been
nothing like it in animation before, at least not in anything I’ve seen.

And the style is allowed to build off of the story as well. Characters move from pencil test to cut-out animation to full color to 3D stop motion backgrounds. Whatever helps the scene is what the look of the film becomes. It’s all done in sort of a primitive drawing technique with watercolors replacing clay backgrounds as complicated cut out characters move through multiplane settings.

As I said, this is an original, a truly Independent animated film. And it’s premiering now at the Film Forum in New York on its first leg of distribution in the US.

Here we see frame grabs from the first several scenes. You can see how easily the style moves from one technique to another, and it feels completely natural to the film.

We move in on a pencil test of a factory.


A harbinger of darkness, a crow perches on an upper level
of the multiplane setting watches that factory.

A long distance shot of the community reveals . . .

. . . the animated title of the film, Consuming Spirits.

A 3D pan over the model of the town leads us to . . .

. . . the multiplane pencil test as our lead moves
with his rifle through a dark, wooded area.

A nun moves out of the sanatorium.

Chris Sullivan’s credit.

Through all this the camera, always active, continues to move in and around the settings. A nun is accidentally hit in an automobile accident and the film begins.

It moves slowly and purposefully with characters always, seemingly, in realistic settings, but the settings take on a rarefied air as the complicated story takes on the level of a soap opera and quickly develops into a reality that feels unusual for animation. Finally, there’s a flashback of an ending that completely overturns the cart and makes the story grow wildly.

It’s a peculiar film and a great one, and it’s in the total control of Chris Sullivan who not only wrote, produced, directed and animated it, he also performs the music. This film is a one man band – or maybe I should say a one man orchestra. It has to be seen to be experienced. This is not a film that can be encapsulated in one sentence, nor can it be easily described in twenty.

I suggest you get to the Film Forum to see it where it will be playing for the next two weeks. It opens tomorrow, Dec. 12th and continues through Tuesday Dec. 5th, Christmas Day. It’s about as adult as a film can get, and it lifts feature animation into a new realm.


This is the trailer (thanks to the Gee, in the comments, for the link)

CONSUMING SPIRITS (trailer) by Chris Sullivan from chris sullivan animation on Vimeo.

Here is A.O.Scott‘s very positive review from the NYTimes.

Boyd van Hoeij‘s less positive review in Variety.

Ian Buckwalter‘s positive review on the NPR site.

5 Responses to “Consuming Spirits”

  1. on 11 Dec 2012 at 7:36 pm 1.chris sullivan said …

    wow michael, thanks so much, means a great deal to me. chris

  2. on 11 Dec 2012 at 11:21 pm 2.the Gee said …

    Unless my tired eyes overlooked it, a link to the trailer isn’t here.

    Here is that link.

    I don’t know when I’ll be able to see it but I am still curious as to how it plays out.

    The feeling that it evokes is interesting. And, I do appreciate the ambition of mixing so many different ways of telling the story.

    Congrats on making something special.

  3. on 11 Dec 2012 at 11:35 pm 3.Liim Lsan said …

    Saw this at the Chicago International a month ago, and was blown out of the water. It’s an epically claustrophobic and cold acheivement with the most affecting movements and styles I’ve seen in years.

    Sadly, the shock of the new seemed to overtake it. The woman next to me fell asleep with her head on my shoulder with about 45 minutes to go (neither of us had planned for the film to go this long – the booklet falsely stated it was 85 minutes! It was easily in the 150s) – I had the unenviable task of describing the last half hour to her. I don’t recommend it to my worst enemy, having to do justice to a film this good.
    (Plus, how do you describe how insanely huge the last half hour is?)

  4. on 12 Dec 2012 at 2:32 am 4.Michael said …

    Thanks Gee for directing me to the trailer. I’d actually realized today that I should have posted it. You made my work easy by giveing me the link. Many thanks. One of us is on his toes.

    Liim your story is funny and apropos. I can easily imagine myself being in the same situation. Actually, with all the films I’ve been seeing lately and the number of times I’ve fallen asleep in movies, I’m surprised that I didn’t go the way of the woman next to you. The movie kept me absorbed though. I guess that was the answer.

  5. on 12 Dec 2012 at 9:53 am 5.George Griffin said …

    Totally agree. It’s a demanding, consuming, witty yet heart-breaking work of art.
    You have to dig into it. It can’t be categorized, but “Appalachian Gothic” could be a starter.

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