Divided into six instalments, this hour-long animation presents a barrage of imagery, most of it cribbed from magazines, textbooks and comics, but also including packaging and medication. We catch glimpses of world leaders and have the impression the film does not approve of them if they can be equated to the shiny consumerism that the style replicates with withering, satirical intent. All the while, a selection of experimental pieces plays on the soundtrack, as challenging as the busy visuals...
Lewis Klahr made these experimental efforts as shorts, and this "feature" is essentially a compilation of some of the more recent examples of his oeuvre, though if it was not for the interstitial title cards and occasional credits you could be forgiven for not noticing where one short ended and another began. Save for one of the films: a view from a railway carriage, as a city goes by outside, digitally treated to render it looking slightly off-kilter though not in a manner you could quite put your finger on.
But in the main, this was a series of machine gun volleys aimed at early twenty-first century capitalist culture, building to a kind of cry of despair accompanied by the sound of Scott Walker at his most difficult (from his final album Bish Bosch) to emphasise the snarky humour of this arrangement, yet also the anguish that there seems to be nothing to be done to halt the march of corporate-led nationalist exploitation, the nation being the United States in this case, though Klahr roped in other territories as well, albeit not as frequently.
As you can imagine, an hour of this (an hour and five minutes, technically) could be pretty wearing to those not prepared for this method of experimentalism, though you could discern obvious roots in pop artists of the nineteen-sixties like Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Richard Hamilton, and the animation approach, mostly moving cut-outs around the page, was one popularised in comedy by Terry Gilliam on the groundbreaking comedy series Monty Python's Flying Circus, though you could see it in a lot of sixties and seventies animation, perhaps because it was not as time-consuming as the alternative.
However, Klahr used stop motion too, so that pills swarm like thriving maggots or the packs pop in and out of the frame, reminding us that so many see the world through the prism of their medication, and thereby pondering how accurate our view of society can be when we are so heavily guided by the pharmaceuticals. A piece of this duration was probably about right, as there was a reason short works were usually the medium for these, as there was only so much you could take in before your eyes began to glaze over and your ears started to zone out of engagement with the sounds. If it was disturbing, that may not have been unintentional, and if you recognised some of the photos or pictures, take note of the assassin who repeatedly appears in the middle and wonder if he is supposed to represent a symptom or a solution.
[Click here to watch on MUBI.]