I saw Don Hertzfeldt’s Bill trilogy and the Colorado premiere of It’s Such a Beautiful Day this past Saturday at the Denver Film Center and they’ve been on my mind. I’ve searched the internet trying to find people who might have crystalized, distorted, and expanded my thoughts into words for me, as people on the internet so often do, but I haven’t found anything.
So I will have to write them down myself.
Fellow attendees to the 7pm show may remember me as the guy who was called on in the Q&A as “brown-shirt” right after Don finished talking about Nazis.
As someone who once made a lens for his SLR out of a plastic magnifying glass only to delight in the discovery that everything, if fed through a poorly-constructed-enough piece of optical equipment, smears out into rainbows, well, I loved the visuals.
It’s… felt like a break from the first two films, which felt very much of a piece. Everything… and I am… both went something like: dark jokes about everyday alienation → ramp up to frightening insanity → release to small moments of beauty and repose. Repeat this arc on larger and smaller overlapping fractal scales and watch it all grow into a beautiful poignant movie.
The new one didn’t have so many jokes. It also didn’t have the terrifying ramp-ups to illness and crisis. The craziness was more diffuse, and the beauty too, just like the light. Watching it was like floating through the emotions of the previous films, completely submersed but also detached, with more poetry and less prose, less cause and effect and more just a big gauzy wash of feelings.
Anyways I loved it.
I asked Don in the Q&A about the ending because it felt like a break from the break. Hearing Mr. Hertzfeldt (heretofore in the role of omnipotent narrator) address Bill directly in the dark during the setup to the final act startled me; it conjured Don the creator out of The Voice. And so Bill’s extension off into infinity, deathless and all-encompassing, felt like a meta move. I read it like—Don has worked on this thing for the better part of a decade and has tried to cram everything of importance into it and sure he’s made a go of it but the resulting finite stretch of film is necessarily incomplete, and he knows it. So Don launches off into a self-parodic sprint into the sea, clanging his aluminum arms together narratively, finding a way for everything—everything!—to be in the film, in a way… but the premise is ridiculous and the film is self-aware of this ridiculousness. The result is a disintegration, the end of Rejected abstracted and writ large. It’s about the limits of art and the limits of experience; it’s about Icarus and infinity. Which is alot of heady stuff to find having the same emotional impact—delight and surprise—that the ending of Rejected had the first time I saw it. It felt a bit odd to be grinning and laughing at the end like I was, but I went with it.