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“Stand-Up” by Joseph Pierce

Standup by Joseph Pierce

Stand-Up (2008) by Joseph Pierce made a strong impression on me when I saw it at Annecy a couple years ago. Since then, I’ve searched every so often to see if Joseph had posted the film on-line, and he’s finally made it available. I’m happy to report that Stand-Up holds up and then some. This was Pierce’s graduation film produced at the UK’s National Film & Television School, and since then he’s gone on to direct the short film A Family Portrait, which won the Grand Prize at the Stuttgart animation festival earlier this year.

As a generality, rotoscoped animation doesn’t do much for me. It mostly leaves me scratching my head and wondering why did they even bother to animate it in the first place. Animation can be (and should strive to be) much more than a watered-down impersonation of reality. Pierce gets that, and uses roto as a means to an end.

The quirky visual style of Stand-Up is exhilarating, as is the way that Pierce’s creative animation weaves in and out of the underlying roto. The main character’s agitated graphic transformations push far beyond the live-action source, illustrating both narrative and psychological aspects of the unsettling story. The story itself, loosely structured but thoughtful, is a look into the world of a boozing stand-up who uses his routine to make a startling confession. The inherent ‘creep’ factor that is an annoying by-product of the rotoscope process actually feeds into the film’s style and makes the comedian’s tale that much more disturbing. It all adds up to a short film that you won’t forget anytime soon.

(Thank you, Celia Bullwinkel, for the link)

  • Sounds interesting. I’ve seen a part of FAMILY PORTRAIT, and it’s certainly something different.

  • oooh that is nice. imagine if “Shorties Watchin Shorties” had been like that? I suppose this would be the HBO version of “Shorties”…

  • Neil

    Joseph was at the London International Animation Festival (Aug) and he introduced A Family Portrait. It was a very modest introduction . Everyone in the audience me and my friends included thought it was brilliant . He won a category there as well.
    He said he was unemployed at the time if that’s still the case give this man a job or money to keep on making films like these.

  • Thank you for sharing that. It made my morning. I know what you mean about the ol’ roto. Generally it works about as well as teaching a pig to sing, you only end up annoying the pig. Here though it’s like a frame to hold things steady as the images slide and morph then snap right back. Again, thanks!

  • pizzaforeveryone

    working alongside the haunting animation & visuals, he’s got a really impeccable sense of timing. love this & family portrait. they’re more than a little squirm-inducing.

  • When I was working at the NFTS, my colleagues and I were in agreement that this was definitely the stand-out film from the previous year. Usually, I find modern black and white annoying (where’s the grey?), but in “Stand-Up”, the stark, graphic contrasts give the film an almost colourful feel, which is really weird when you consider the subject matter. Mmm.

  • Interesting on the small level.

    I’m one of those people who finds Tex Avery’s “Symphony in Slang”, where he illustrates quirky turns of phrase in literal fashion, tedious to watch. Similar reaction here.

  • I like what he did with the art but… otherwise… it’s a bit bloody horrible isn’t it?

  • Free Casimir

    Standup is extraordinnary. It made me think of Chris Landreth´s films, for their strength and lonely trippy feel. reality is never for granted. it´s always about to collapse, it´s on the edge. Standup translates this fantastically. this is what film should work at.