May 13, 2003

This ain't no Wallace and Gromit

Students expecting to see a normal claymation short by Alex Pile and Kyle B. Stiff at last Friday's FOTA opening were undoubtedly surprised by the explicit sex and violence portrayed, though according to Pile, viewers shouldn't look at it as porn.

"People don't know what to think yet," said director and fourth-year Pile. Others who worked on the film had entirely different ideas as to what it was about. Stiff, the animator, said the movie was about lost innocence. "While Alex was making the unicorn statue that went in the hotel lobby, we were talking about all this horrible stuff we were going to put in the film...A unicorn is supposed to be a magical animal and super-innocent, so I thought it would be ironic to call this X-rated claymation 'The Unicorn,'" said Stiff.

Sound engineer and fourth-year Kenny Ketner said that viewers should ask questions about the film before dismissing it outright for its offensive content. "It's powerful because people don't usually confront things like what are in the movie, and certainly never in clay, and would never expect to encounter it in clay," said Ketner. Stiff agreed: "The only reason 'The Unicorn' is so very shocking is that we're presenting an adult level of sex and violence in a medium that's traditionally been shown only to children."

It all starts innocently enough with a yellow taxi labeled "Brown Cab" driving down a street at night, but quickly shifts into sex scenes with loud slurping, followed by a dramatic chase scene, shooting, and tons of clay figures exploding into blood and guts.

It quickly becomes apparent from the opening of the film that nothing in it should or can be taken seriously. The animation and sculpting, while decent, was rudimentary, aiding the fantastic (and by that I mean fantasy-like) quality of the story. As Ketner said, "Cheesy action-movie one-liners are a staple of this film." The eight-minute film is, beyond the shock, extremely entertaining and humorous.

Those familiar with Pile's previous work, which includes films shown at last year's Fire Escape festivals, "Spare Change" and "Alternative Connections," will recognize a common style. He makes the audience ask questions about what they consider appropriate to see on the screen and uses a plodding introduction with a single energetic climax to portray his break from the expected.

Pile's film will show at 10 p.m. on Wednesday, May 14 at the Fire Escape Festival at Doc Films, and on Friday, May 16 sometime between 5 and 8 p.m. at Midway Studios.