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.