Imagination by the Leiser Brothers

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Imagination As mentioned on November 17, I received a DVD screener of Imagination by filmmakers Eric and Jeffrey Leiser to review. Now that I am back from vacation, I had a chance to watch their film and recently posted my 15-word review to Filmometer.com. But I want to expand upon my thoughts here.

Imagination by the Leiser Brothers is definitely a work for open-minded independent film lovers and animation buffs. It feels very much like a surreal experiment of animation techniques, including puppetry, stop-motion sketches, time-lapse photography, and claymation. A lot of the animation is brilliant and very Svankmajer-like. Unfortunately, the entire film is not animated. The film’s problems are the live-action scenes, due to unconvincing performances by the adult actors. Some of the acting was so weak that I was actually relieved when the earthquake scene (executed by shaking a handheld camera violently from various angles) resulted in the demise of one of the adult actors. While watching the film, I often found myself impatiently waiting for the next surreal animation scene. But the entire film is only 70 minutes long, which felt like a nice length.

However, be warned, if you have an aversion to watching movies with unconventional narratives and eclectic visual techniques, you may be bewildered by the tonal shifts of this film. I, for one, welcome viewing this kind of low-budget art film in between interchangeable, glossy Hollywood features with tidy endings. It’s refreshing. At least Imagination inspires thought . . . even if that thought, for some people, may amount to “WTF?”

Imagination seems to be about learning the secrets of heaven and nature. Starring are identical twin sisters, one who is going blind and the other who suffers from a type of autism called Asperger’s syndrome. The premise is that together they have a special gift that enables them to rise above their physical disabilities and collectively escape reality into a realm of their imagination. It is when the film moves into the stop-motion animated worlds (and away from the annoying real actors) that I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. It is through Eric Leiser’s many animation techniques that the two girls connect with a spiritual force/deity and ascend from their limited reality into something much greater and more magical. Which is somehow related to an albino fawn. Regarding their clueless parents, the twin girls say, “They forgot what it means to dream.”

Imagination With some improvements to dialogue and narration, refinements to story structure to better integrate the avant-garde visuals, and by enlisting the services of more talented actors, I think the Leiser Brothers could, in the future, turn in amazing works along the lines of Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) and The Science of Sleep (2006). They obviously are a talented duo. Alternatively, they could focus their filmmaking in the world of animation, à la Jan Svankmajer or the Brothers Quay, which is this film’s obvious strength.

Thanks very much to the Leiser Brothers for the opportunity to watch their film. And best of luck to them in the future. It’s always nice to see young filmmakers challenging and experimenting with the conventions of cinema. I’m excited to see what they will do next.

In closing, I’d like to repeat what I posted last month about the release and distribution of Imagination: After invitations to a number of film festivals in 2007, additional theatrical openings of Imagination are coming soon to screens in Portland, New York, and Los Angeles. The Leiser Brothers have already secured distribution though Vanguard International Cinema, with a February 26, 2008 street date. You can watch the Imagination trailer (plus a 10-minute version) at albinofawn.com.

Attention Oregonians: Eric and Jeffrey Leiser will be driving up from Southern California for a leap-year screening in Portland. On Friday, February 29, 2008, Imagination will be showing at 9pm at the Hollywood Theatre.

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